Through Many Struggles, Faith
By Deacon Greg
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11; Psalm 32
It shouldn’t be surprising that we all have
this perspective after centuries of guilt theology, but I hope that I can bring
to you this morning a different perspective of a deeper meaning that connects each
one of us to this very human Jesus.
In meditating and praying on the opening
verse from Matthew, I realized that this translation can be misleading. It says
“Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the
devil.” Have you ever been “led up by the Spirit” to go some place?
Imagine saying to your spouse or parent, “I was led up by the Spirit into the shopping mall today to be tempted by the devil with all those advertisements, and ended up spending $5,000!” Does that sound believable? That sounds more like that character Geraldine that Flip Wilson used to play—you know, the woman who was always saying “The Devil made me do it! The Devil made me buy this dress.” (YouTube Flip Wilson The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress).
God does not “lead us” into sin. Even in the
Lord’s prayer we use each Sunday we suffer from a 16th Century King
James, Shakespearian English translation of “Lead us not into temptation, but
deliver us from evil,” which in the Book of Common Prayer (p.364) has a modern-day English
rendering of “Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil.”
Does that give you a different perspective? “Save
us from the time of trial!”
We know we face regular trials in this life, some of us on a daily basis.
Here we are praying to God
“Save us from the time of trial!” “Help us get through this, God. Help us
remember you are walking with us. Let us not lose hope!”
“Save us from the time of trial, and deliver
us from evil” feels to me like a very personal response between two loving
beings—between God and each one of us.
Isn’t that what our relationship with God
is? God is not a vengeful judge, but
a loving parent. Save us, dear God, from
the time of trial, and deliver us from evil whenever it assaults us.
When we pray or sing the traditional Lord’s
Prayer, try grasping in your minds this more personal one: Save us from the
time of trial!
Likewise, I would like to suggest a
different way to see the opening verse of today’s Gospel. Instead of “Jesus was
led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil,” try “Jesus
was inspired by the Spirit to go off alone to listen to God’s call, and to
struggle with his own human weaknesses.”
How often do each of us struggle with our
own weaknesses? Jesus, too, has faced these struggles!
At his baptism in the Jordan, Jesus heard
God tell him “You are my beloved.” In hearing this, Jesus, with a desire to
deepen his relationship with God, separated himself from the day-to-day world
to spend time—40 days!—focusing on God.
In that time in the wilderness, where
resources are scarce, Jesus inevitably encounters his own human needs and
desires—desires that call for humans to focus on “me, myself, and I”—rather
than on what God lovingly calls us to do.
Notice, though, how Jesus overcomes his
selfish, human desires, by grasping onto the words of God: “One does not live
by bread alone…”; “Do not put the Lord your God to the test”; “Worship the Lord
your God, and serve only him.”
The deeper meaning of today’s Gospel is that
in listening to God’s call, Jesus overcomes his all-too-human side of “It’s all
about me”, and transforms his inner self into “It’s all about all of us, and
it’s all about God.”
In Jesus’ day the faith of the Pharisees and
Sadducees focused on counting up sins and sacrificing animals. St. Paul tells
us that Jesus has already wiped away our sins through his death on the cross. There
is no need for us to keep an accounting ledger to total up our sins.
Sin is not an abstract number to be added
up, but instead are those things in our lives that keep us separated from God:
Things like greed,
thirst for power,
addictions of all kinds,
· hatred of others—
There seems to be an unending
list in this world of the ways people separate themselves from God. Should we
focus on sin, or focus on God?
This is what the Season of Lent is all
It’s a time for us to introspectively examine
our lives and struggle with our inner demons that lead us off the path to the
Kingdom of God.
It is a time not only for introspection, but
also in building our inner resolve to expel the demons within us by choosing a
different way of using our time in this life.
I read a quote the other day from an author,
David Viscott, a psychiatrist, from his 1993 book “Finding Your Strength in
Difficult Times: A Book of Meditations”. He wrote, “The purpose of life is to
discover your gift. The work of life is to develop it. The meaning of life is
to give your gift away.” That sounds to me like a great definition of our call
Through our new life in Christ, a life where
God says to every one of us “You are my beloved,” we are called to live a life
focused on mercy and justice, and living God’s dream of bringing the Kingdom of
Love into this world.
In this Season of Lent we are called to examine
the things in our lives that keep us separated from God. Jesus spent 40 days in
prayer and introspection. Could you spend 40 days? How about 40 minutes each
day for 40 days?
How can you find your inspiration? A book to
read? In Prayer? In Meditation? Will it be a combination of something? Find
something to inspire you! Set aside the time! And as you live through this time
of lent, remember that after Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, he started
a ministry that changed everyone’s life. What are you called to do?
I leave you with this Lenten reflection from "The Saint Helena Breviary":
Then let us also keep this Lent
With watchful and devout intent,
That, vigilant, we may prepare
Our hearts for God’s redeeming
As by our lapses we offend
O you who love us, truest
Forgive us, Jesus, our offense;
Teach us a new obedience.
Let all the world for evermore
You, gracious Trinity, adore;
And may we spend these forty
In seeking you and singing