Sunday, February 25, 2007

Lent 1 - Year C

It was clear, Jesus had options. And Satan knew it. So did Jesus. Jesus could have popped open the celestial oven and grab some bread. He could have snapped his fingers and solved world hunger. He could have flown in the air and attracted a big crowd.

But with options come choices.

Testing God or trusting God. Power or weakness. Leading by force or by the slow and often painful and failure ridden work of leading by the weakness of love.

Jesus chose truth, trust, weakness. I guess the implication is that Jesus wants us to live by those same values.

Which is all very well and good, inspiring even. And I get moved to live and serve that way when I hear these stories, or when I sing hymns such as “Go to dark Gethsemane” or “beneath the Cross of Jesus.” Those wonderful Lent and Good Friday hymns that speak of God’s upside down power.

But then I wipe the dew from my eyes and face the real world. Weakness. Failure. Even love. These are not the ways I want to change the world. This not the vision I have in my head when I’m confronted with hunger or violence, grief or despair. Where God’s is like an absentee-deity when confronted with a world bent on destroying itself.

Often, when I think of God I ask, “Why do you allow this?” or “why are you hiding?” or even “How long, O Lord, must we wait?” Sometimes I ask no question at all. I just say “Get ‘em, God!” making God my own personal agent of revenge.

I think our most primal temptation are like Jesus’ temptations. And God asks us to refuse them the same way that Jesus does: relying on the Spirit who is in us all, turning to the Word of God to teach us wisdom, and searching out – and confessing – the truth about ourselves and each other.

But there is one temptation here that we have not acknowledged. It’s hidden here in plain sight, and that is the temptation to believe that God is NOT like the bible says God is.

In the past, Christians have said that in this story, Jesus is fully human just like us, can by fully tempted like us, yadda, yadda, yadda, but often nothing is said about how God, who is in Jesus, is fully tempted here.

It’s one thing to say that temptation is our human lot, that we are to rely on the power of truth, trust, and the weakness of love – but it’s another thing to say that this is God’s lot too.

Do we really believe in a God like that? Do we WANT to believe in a God like that? A God who relies on truth transforming us? A God who thinks that love can change the world? A God who wants mercy to mend broken hearts?

No offense, God, but truth is too slow a process and we’ve got too many liars on the planet. A God who asks us to trust – no offense God, but you are often silent when we most need you to speak. A God who acts in love – LOVE – when we face the onslaught of basic human greed destroying the planet, the threat of violence that puts human life in danger, the hatred between peoples born of pride and the lust for power – no offense, God, what’s the point of being God if you can’t throw YOUR power around?

Also, I live in the real world. This love and trust mumbo-jumbo may sound nice on Sunday morning at church, but when I step out the front doors, people are trying to get me. They’re gonna try to take what’s rightfully mine, everything I’ve worked hard to accumulate. No offense, God, but you’re looking pretty weak.

If you listen hard, that’s exactly what the devil was whispering in Jesus’ ear: IF you are the Son of God…” the devil says, mockingly. “Are you really sure you are who you think your are? Are you really sure God is who you think God is? What does it mean to be God, Jesus? After all, what if everything you say you believe is wrong?”

I have to admit, that’s my biggest temptation. Often – like several times a day – I find myself asking God, “Why do you allow this? Children to be chocked to death by power windows in SUVs. Cancer rates rising. Wars that threaten to escalate, putting all life on earth in serious jeopardy. Seems like a dumb way to run the world. What’s the point of being God if you act to quietly? Or even, angrily, that nasty little prayer for revenge “Get ‘em God!”

I’m guessing that you, sometimes, give into that temptation, too. We do have an odd God – a God who is not always easy to follow, or even agree with in how God has arranged the world.

But the good news is that God we are not asked to be God. We are asked to be human. Sometimes I don’t know how God can stand it, looking at all the trauma of the world and still believing that trust, truth, and love is the way for us to live. But God still has faith in us and the world.

We see that in the way Jesus responded to Satan. It can’t be easy, being God – and the devil does tempt God with other, easier paths. But Jesus follows that path today, and even when that path lead to a horrible death – refusing to turn stones to bread or call down the heavenly hosts to protect him, refusing to jump down from the temple, he refused to jump down off the cross.

And by this, we know that our giving into temptation – our choosing lies, deal-making, and power – will not have the final say. Where we give in, God does not give in.

And who has the final say? To all appearances, it often seems like the devil does. But look closely at the gospel. It is Jesus who has the final word here, and even on the cross, God has the final say. And it is God who has the final say with us, too. And God has faith in us.

And that’s the promise that God has for Benjamin today. Through the waters of baptism God is saying that God trusts Benjamin to be an agent of healing in the world. God has faith that Benjamin will shine with mercy and glow with love. And that in all his temptations and failures, God will walk with him every step of the way, lifting him when he falls, loving him in his weakness, and gently guiding him home when he is lost.

And may this be so among us. Amen.


Blogger Dave said...

Sorry I missed such a great sermon....I applaud the honesty that it seems so few are willing to exhibit, despite harboring similar if not more vile questions in their heart...maybe fear revealing their true lack of knowledge of this God they serve.

Kevin I respect and support your journey...Blessing s be your s this week...
How is the weight loss going?

Dave Moore

1:32 PM  

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