Audio 1 Lent Yr C March 10 2019
Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Romans 10:8b-13, Luke 4:1-13, Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
So he stands by the refrigerator, with the door open, looking inside, and says, I'm starving, there's nothing to eat. Then he goes to the kitchen cupboard, opens the door, and declares again, I'm starving, there's nothing to eat. I go to the grocery store, stock up on everything I think he likes to eat, get it all home, and there's still nothing to eat. He eats a delicious meal of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and an hour later says, I'm starving, what is there to eat. Some of you have been there done that, for others, if you don't know what that's like yet, you will.
And then there's that late afternoon grumbling in your tummy, and if you go too long you get a little light headed and maybe even ornery. These days we call it hangry. What luxury we live in, most of us is pretty sure we won't go for more than a few hours before our next meal. What a bunch of first world problems.
In this story, Jesus has been in the wilderness for a very long time, and I would imagine he is hungry, tired, stinky, and snarky. Forty days is significant as it is a signal to us of the forty years that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness. Remember that story? Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, and in the wilderness they began to distrust Moses, they began to distrust God, they began to whine about the food, the living conditions, the weather. But who wouldn't, right? After forty years and another generation, who wouldn't lose hope? After years of oppression, who wouldn't lose hope? After years of being mistreated, who wouldn't lose hope?
That's what The Devil is counting on in this story from Luke. The Devil is counting on Jesus having lost hope and trust in God. The Devil is counting on Jesus believing that God just does not care. Each one of the suggestions The Devil has for Jesus names the temptation to give up on God, to come to believe that God is not sufficient to meet one's needs. It's not really about right and wrong, Jesus' decisions are not really black and white. So while Jesus is incredibly hungry, even if he had some survival skills, eating bugs for forty days, one would think he's ready to deal. The Devil says to Jesus, just have something to eat, you know how hungry you are. Which one of us wouldn't want a good loaf of bread? Then The Devil says to Jesus, you can have all the power and authority in the world, just think what you could do with that. This could all be yours. Just think what good you could do with it. And lastly, after The Devil may be getting somewhat frustrated, he says to Jesus, just test that God of yours now, just see if he'll whisk you out of death if you throw yourself off this cliff.
You see, The Devil's proposals are just like the promises of the world, and they look so attractive. You will be filled and fulfilled, you will have power and prestige, you will have immensity and immortality. It is so seductive. It is so tempting. We don't even know it's happening. But when the pills, or the promiscuity, or the power, don't deliver the goods, we tend to continue to look further for fulfillment by increasing the frenetic pace of finding something that will make us happy. It is that inferno into which our hopes, our happiness, our joy, get sucked. Thus, the expression, it sucks. The Devil counts on us giving up too, the Devil counts on us losing hope, and we may be so caught in the cycle of trying to make ourselves happy, that we give up on hope and joy without ever knowing we've given up.
But, even when we give up hope, even when we give up on God, even when we give in to the glitter and glitz the world offers us, God never gives up on us. Love does indeed win. That's what so amazing about God. No matter what, God does not give up on us. That is what this story is about, that is what this story we hear all the way through Lent tells us. It's not an easy story to hear, there's heartbreak and death on the way to the cross, and on the cross, but there's also forgiveness, healing, and new life.
We already know that Jesus is a good Jew, he knows his bible well, and in those scriptures, Jesus hears God's love, he hears hope and healing and health. You see, this thing we do with God is not transactional. Though we do want it to be that way. God, if you pull me out of this mess I've gotten myself into, I will be a better person, I will go to church every Sunday. But isn't that the very same thing The Devil is doing?
This thing God does with creation is not transactional, it is relational. The Devil wants us to think it's transactional, that it's about bargaining with God. That's where those temptations from The Devil come from. The Devil says to Jesus, if you turn these stones into bread, if you take this power and authority, if you jump off this cliff, then I will give this all to you. With The Devil it is transactional, with God it is relational, and at the center of that relationship is the Love that wins.
The relationship calls us to turn away from or set aside or leave behind all that is killing us and turn back to God. As we hear that call, and as we set aside the stuff that gets in our way, as we lay down our own heartbreak, and as we fall to our knees, we realize we are already forgiven. We realize Love and Hope and Joy have never been absent from us, we've just had our backs turned, we've had our hearts hardened. We realize that we are washed in the reality and love of God.
And as we begin to live the new life that is given, it dawns on us that we must respond to God's love. It dawns on us that there is pain and suffering and injustice in our world, and the new life that is God's gift really isn't about any one of us anyway.
God’s intention for us is to be in relationship, in love, with Jesus. How can you be intentional in following the way of Love this Lent? We can respond to God's love with prayer, we listen to God and God's movement in our lives. That's what relationship is all about. We can respond to God's love by fasting from that which keeps the relationship from flourishing. We can respond to God's love by giving our love, our wealth, our time. Prayer, fasting, almsgiving are ancient practices that give life to our relationship with God. Prayer, fasting, almsgiving are ancient practices that enact God's love, God's justice, in our world. Prayer, fasting, almsgiving are ancient practices that remind us that God always has hope and faith in us.
The good news is that Jesus has already walked this way, through the wilderness and to the cross. The good news is that Jesus does not succumb to the seduction of power. Instead, Jesus puts himself in between the powers of hate and shows makes love real. Amen.