“Jesus, the Man – Tempted”
Luke 4: 1-13, March 10th, 2019
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
First Sunday of Lent & Read Statement of Faith
“Hear now the accounting surrounding the temptations of Jesus, from the gospel of Luke, chapter four, verses one thru thirteen.”
1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” 5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ 11 and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
“Having heard how Jesus, was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, let us consider how this sheds light on our human challenges.”
“Jesus, the Man – Tempted.”
On Tuesday mornings, in the solitude of my office at home, I write out our weekly discussion regarding the scripture lesson I have chosen for our reflection each Sunday; commonly referred to as ‘writing a sermon’. Every time I do this, even though I passionately love to preach, I struggle with getting started writing on many a Tuesday morning. Being it is the first Sunday in Lent, I have this need to confess to you one of my temptations. As I turn on my computer and bring up the screen that contains my sermon topic and the lesson which is the subject, yet, as I look at the remaining blank pages… I must confess, I often-times would rather go for a walk or have yet, another cup of coffee. This past Tuesday, I pushed myself to at least write my monthly newsletter, which I did do. It is a short little document. But the sermon was yet undone, the first line yet to be written. I wandered about the house, gazing out the back window, when I noticed a little gecko, a lizard, stuck between the screen and the window. I was tempted to do nothing. I mussed that I needed to get back to work. I knew I ought to get back to the computer and start writing, but, I just couldn’t. So, I set aside my responsibilities for a bit and went outside, to remove the screen, not as easy as it sounds. A half hour later the little lizard scampered away. Sometimes, it is the distractions that are more important than our carefully outlined list of things we needed to get done.
Wesley White in his writing about “A place of conversation regarding Progressive Christianity,” speaks about ‘opportune times’. “O how many opportune times there are for compromising just a bit on matters of expansive love, specific justice, and desired peace.” “Opportunities come our way, every day; the question, therefore, is how often do we stop and interrupt our well-planned activity or task, and respond?” My quest to save one little lizard was about me stopping what I had planned and doing something for one of God’s creatures. This was a sort of training exercise, as there will be many opportunities to help others. Perhaps next time it will be a family in need who can only stop by the church late on a Monday or Wednesday afternoon, long after I would rather have been headed home for supper. Helping others is often inconvenient. How do we make the choice to interrupt our schedules to do something for someone else? Some friends of mine often tell me to P. P., Pause and Pray. When I stop and pray even a short prayer, allowing God to open my heart, the answer is usually obvious. When you next encounter a moment, a situation or a person who could use your help, remember to pause and pray, considering how this may be the real reason God sent you this way today.
Another temptation many of us have, when opportunities knock on our door, is to say we are not capably of helping. Again, we need to pause and pray, asking God for the willingness to at least try, to see what we can do. Sometimes we will be surprised. Consequently, before these moments come our way, we need to take time to reflect and consider what abilities and resources we do possess. Fr. Gerry Pierse tells us “If we know where our strong points are, we will also know where our weaknesses lie.” Do you know where your weaknesses are? Most of us probably do and then we give up because we believe we can’t help – because of our weakness. When we do this, we are giving up before we actually-try. Sure, it’s good to know our own weaknesses, but we need to also consider our strengths our strong points. Every one of us has a strong point! My friend, he had a stroke over seven years ago. He drags half his body with him where ever he goes. Sometimes, he stutters when he speaks. But I got to tell you he has a keen understanding of life and he is the world’s best listener. When I dump my troubles on him, he listens and then speaks from his heart. When I am up too high, he can bring me back down until I am right sized. When I am taking myself too seriously, he has a way of making me humble. When I am feeling sorry for myself, he limps over to me and says: “It’s all good.” As I look at him with his up-lifting positive attitude I again realize how abundant my life truly is.
Pastor Edward F. Markquart speaks about human weakness. “Each person has points of vulnerability to the power of evil.” It is important that we as individuals acknowledge this truth for ourselves. Things that tempt me, perhaps won’t temp you and the reverse is true. Your failing isn’t mine. Some of us can’t stop from eating too much milk chocolate, even when we know we ought not! Others of us want for yet another new pair of shoes, even though we still have several pairs we barely wear at all. But-still, we go out and buy yet another pair, even though doing so puts another strain on our already stretched budget. Somethings are such powerful temptations that when we succumb to them, we will do real harm to ourselves and others. Perhaps you need help overcoming such temptations. If that is you, seek the help you need. Talk to a friend or loved one or consider talking to your spiritual advisor or pastor.
One theologian, named Alan Brehm speaks about how important our experiences are. “We can only learn by experience that God brings surprising good out of even the worst experiences of life. We can only develop a heart of trust and eyes of faith when we look back in hindsight.” Have you become willing along your journey, to look to your own past and learn from what is there for you to examine and discern and understand? We are a diverse group when we consider our range of experiences. Pastor Jim, our Pastor Emeritus, is having a family birthday party this next Saturday, the 16th. He will be celebrating his one hundred and third birthday. Dear Beth, you are a mere ninety-nine and half years of age. And a number of our congregation are ninety and above. Your experiences along the way contain a library of knowledge which offer those of us whom listen to you an invaluable volume of wisdom and knowledge. Us younger baby-boomers have traveled a long way also and have picked up a few bits of gems as well. Likewise, Millennials and the X generation are trying to bring us older folks into the age of high technology and amazing opportunities for communications with others. We can learn so much from one another. Our own experiences are a treasure, the bad moments and the difficult situations as-well-as the good times. Let us strive to trust, let us open our hearts to one another.
Nancy Rockwell in her writing entitled “The Bite in the Apple” speaks to us of love. “Purity of heart, such as Jesus maintained in himself, requires us to love God and love the people, to serve God and to serve the people, to praise God and praise the people.” Who among us has learned how to do this, all the time, some of the time or at least now and then? As we begin our reflection process from the assessment of our church from the ‘New Beginnings’ program, we may want to look at these words carefully. Loving God and the people, serving God and the people. Wow! This is a lot to ask isn’t it? It sure is tempting to just set this aside and say, ‘we do enough already!’ Reading about Jesus’ temptations as we look to the accounting, they are overwhelming, are they not! I invite you to reread the temptation account. Each temptation was asking Jesus to think of himself first and himself only. The devil offered food and water to quench Jesus’ hunger and thirst for himself, he was offered power over kingdoms, all that was required was for Jesus to worship evil rather than good. When it is all about, I, rather than about, you, or us, something is wrong! If we only think of ourselves, we become isolated from everything and everyone else. This is true at every level of life. The challenge facing us, facing you and me and all of society, is to look at the bigger picture. The world is not revolving around us. Rather, we are part of the whole and we revolve around the Son (sun.) Freedom from our temptations comes… when we are willing to realize that we are not in charge! We are the children of God, God is in charge, whether we like it or not!
“The platform of Jesus’ mission and the content of his call to discipleship are filled with God’s passion for the outcast, the poor, the oppressed, and the lost.” David L. Tiede, puts these words out there for us to reflect on as we consider the temptations in our own lives. What is your passion? Is it line with Jesus’ passion? Is it centered around that illusive, I, me, myself and I! The example of Jesus was centered around serving others. His life was lived in humble poverty and he suffered, forsaking his own needs for the greater good of all humanity! Yes, we all have temptations and some of them we are passionate about and dearly attached to! We all know how hard it is to set somethings aside, especially when we are passionate about them in our own lives. As we journey through Lent, as we review who we are and how we fit into the mold of a true follower of Christ, let us keep in mind that our passion needs to be in our relationship with God through Christ. We need to truly desire to follow in the example of the man Jesus and how he lived his life. We also need to study and strive to live into his teachings. As we do this, we may need to let go of some of our passions, which isolate us. In isolation we may give into the temptation to stop reaching out in compassion to help those around us! When we do this we become isolated from our community and ultimately from our God
As we live into our new future, let us take time to ask God to help us in every step we take. Let us pause and pray. Let us ask God to give us strength and courage as we resist the powers of evil. As we do so – we will gain more energy to passionately follow more closely in the pathway God has laid out for us to follow.