As we begin our Lenten journey, it is helpful to again pause and rewind.
Our Lenten journey does not begin after Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain, instead it begins after Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordon.
Jesus publicly commits to proclaiming repentance and the Kingdom to Come that is here now in glimpses, near, and not yet fulfilled.
- Jesus publicly commits to seeking justice and honest peace.
- Jesus publicly commits to acts of compassion and mercy.
- Jesus publicly commits to loving and serving all people, but especially the under-privileged.
Immediately afterwards, the Holy Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness alone.
Jesus will be alone in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights while tempted by the Satan.
According to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the Satan tempts Jesus with three notable tests.
- Jesus is tempted to abuse his divine power for the physical nourishment of food.
- Jesus is tempted to surrender his divine authority for material wealth and earthly authority.
- Jesus is tempted to ‘test’ God.
These temptations are reasonable.
- Similar to puppy friends, we (as humans) are often food motivated especially when hungry. Hungry humans are often ‘hangry’ humans.
- We, as humans, are often motivated by material reward and earthly authority. Studies have indicated that humans, organizations, and companies often do not consider themselves ‘wealthy’ due to the presence of persons, organizations, and companies that are ‘wealthier’. This results in a continual drive to accumulate additional wealth or maintain, perhaps hoard,
their current wealth.
- We, as humans, intentionally or not, often ‘test’ God.
Our intentional tests may be modeled from Martin Luther: “Lord, I will become a monk, IF YOU save me from this storm” or “I will believe in you, IF YOU do this”.
Our unintentional tests may include our assurance of God’s grace for ourselves despite:
not proclaiming Christ in thought, word, and deed through imitation,
not seeking justice and honest peace,
not acting with compassion and mercy toward another, and
not loving and serving all people, but especially the under-privileged.
However, the Gospel of Mark does not provide insight into the temptation of Jesus; and thus, it enables us more deeply to discern Jesus’ experience in the wilderness. I envision that Jesus experienced additional challenges during his 40 days and nights.
Perhaps, Jesus heard the Satan whispering lies into his ear.
- The lie that Jesus was not divine.
- The lie that Jesus was not the Beloved Son of God.
- The lie that Jesus was not the long-awaited Messiah or Christ.
- The lie that Jesus was not a ‘Miracle Worker’ lifting the under-privileged in status.
- The lie that Jesus was not a Rabbi instructing persons in the Kingdom of God to Come.
Similarly, the Satan whispers in our ear.
- The lie that we or perhaps another are not beloved children of God.
- The lie that we are unable to lift the under-privileged for the sake of justice and honest peace.
- The lie that we are unable to walk in Jesus’ footsteps of compassion, mercy, grace, and love in service to all despite difference in race, ethnicity, or nationality; biological sex, gender identity, or sexuality; socio-economics; political affiliations; religious adherence or lack thereof; and beyond.
Perhaps, Jesus was further tempted to abuse his power, his authority, his privilege.
Similarly, we are tempted to abuse our power, our authority, and our privilege.
- The abuse of dominating and silencing those who may have less power, authority, and privilege.
- The abuse of intimidating those whose voice and presence is perceived as a threat to our authority or comfort.
- The effort of gas-lighting, or creating a false reality, to manipulate another for our own benefit.
The truth is that we, as humans, are tempted to not live more boldly into our baptismal commitments.
We, as humans, sin each second and beyond due to our desire to remain comfortable and un-changed.
We are tempted by thoughts and actions that are self-centered and self-serving.
We are tempted by less-than-charitable thoughts and actions towards another.
We are tempted by words rooted in ego and pride, frustration and anger.
As I pondered this temptation of Jesus and ourselves, “A Day with the Devil” echoed in my soul. It is a country song performed by a Hoosier boy named Matt Mason. (It is our Offering Video and I encourage you to pause and listen to it at that time.)
May our eyes, minds, hearts, and souls be open to recognizing the temptations in our own lives.
May we be enabled to boldly renounce all forces that defy God and the Kingdom to Come.
May we be empowered to boldly renounce all temptations that seek to draw us from God and neighbor alike.
May we be emboldened to boldly follow in the footsteps of Jesus through baptism, temptation, and beyond.
Scriptures were Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Peter 3:18-22; and Mark 1:9-15.
Originally preached 21 February 2021 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).
A Day with the Devil
I left here this mornin’, my feet hard on the ground,
swore I wasn’t comin’ back, we’d fought our final round.
Then a stranger, offered me a ride.
So I took him up and climbed on inside.
He said I’ve got some things to do, I hope that you don’t mind.
I figured what’s the difference? I had lots of time.
When I seen his eyes, I sank in disbelief.
I was ridin’ with the devil, and I watched him do his deeds.
He told that lonely man to keep drinkin’,
simple child to just quit thinkin’,
and begged the wife to cheat,
and he cursed the farmers land,
told that sick old soul to just give up,
teenage boy to take that puff,
and whispered to me let go of her hand.
He said I can’t keep you here, no not against your will
but go ahead and leave that girl and see how good it feels.
Boy you know, this world’s a big ol’ place
and loves not really real anyway
Life don’t last forever, so you oughta roll the dice.
You know I’d never tell a lie, just take my advice.
But I’d seen enough and I told him we were through.
I said go to hell, there’s some things I need to do.
I told that lonely man to quit drinkin’,
simple child to just keep thinkin’,
and begged the wife to pray, God bless the farmer’s land,
told that sick old soul to not give in
the teenage boy to run from sin
and came back home to take you by the hand.
I know I can be a better man.