Carolyn’s Sermon for the First Sunday in Lent – 2/17/13

Sermon Lent 1

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Today we hear the story of the Temptation of Jesus in the Wilderness.

This is NOT the point of this story – “Here’s how Jesus overcame temptation and you can, too.”  The point of the story is not that Jesus is an example for us on how to resist temptation.

First of all, none of us is Jesus.  We are called to follow Jesus, but we are not Jesus.

Secondly, if our spirituality is all about what we do, then we don’t need Jesus.  Our spirituality is and always has been about what Jesus has done for us, not what we do for Jesus.

And thirdly, if we do the best we can, and still fall short, still give into temptation, which we will, because we are human, we end up feeling even worse about our selves.  We have accomplished nothing.

New Lenten burse and veil at St. Mark's.

New Lenten burse and veil at St. Mark’s.


This story is NOT about “How Jesus overcame temptation and we can too.”

This story IS about how Jesus resisted temptation with us and for us.  We are included in the story because we are bound to Christ.

We are bound to Christ in our baptism.  We were adopted as God’s children, brothers and sisters of Christ.

We are bound to Christ when we say the creed together and announce to the world what we believe.

We are bound to Christ when we share in this sacrament of communion together and experience his presence and forgiveness in the meal.

We are bound to Christ in the story of God’s people.  The story becomes alive for us whenever we remember and retell it.

Luke connects this story of the three temptations of Jesus with the story of the people of Israel in the wilderness.

You remember their journey.  They were so excited when Moses led them out of slavery in Egypt across the Red Sea.  But then they started wandering.  They wandered in the wilderness for forty years.

Forty is the number in the Bible that stands for a really, really long time.  Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days – a really long time.

The first temptation is about daily bread. The people of Israel were hungry.  They gave into temptation and they complained.  They grumbled, they behaved badly.  God sent them manna and they even complained about that.

God told them not to collect more than one day’s worth, yet they gave into doubt and temptation and tried to save something that could not be saved.

I have never been really hungry.  I can tell you that I don’t do well if I have to wait for a meal.  I get really grumpy.  I cannot imagine real hunger.

I know what it like to be tempted to eat too much, though. For us, perhaps the temptation is to consume so many things that we don’t really need.

Perhaps, for us, this temptation is to take more than our share.  Perhaps it is the temptation to store things up, in fear that we will need them some day.

This first temptation is the temptation to satisfy your hunger at any cost.  It is the temptation to doubt and mistrust that God will deliver what God has promised.  It is the temptation to doubt that God will provide our daily bread. The people of Israel failed the test of the first temptation.  We fail, too.

The second temptation is to worship something other than God.  The Israelites had their golden calf.  The devil promises Jesus the power to rule all the kingdoms of the world.

Gold and power – they are both very tempting.  Think what you could do with a pile of money.  Think what you could do if you had the power to influence all the world’s rulers.

I would like to think I would end world hunger and bring about world peace.  I would like to think that we would all do that if we were suddenly given wealth and power.

Unfortunately, we are probably just as human and just as sinful as everyone else throughout history who has been given wealth and power.  They were all corrupted by them.

The reason wealth and power corrupt is that they tempt us to believe they are greater than God.  They become all important, more important than God in our lives.  That was the second temptation. The people of Israel failed.  We failed.

The third temptation is the temptation to put God to the test. The Israelites did this many times on their journey.  Putting God to the test is not just a request for a magic trick, though.

Our temptations are a bit more subtle, because we like to think we are more sophisticated, more scientific.  We all try to make deals with God.  We might tell ourselves that they are prayers, but we try to make bargains.

I am sure none of you have done this, but perhaps someone you know has asked God to just let them pass this test and they promise to study for the next one?  Or perhaps someone you know has prayed that the cop will give them a warning this time and they promise not to speed again.

Or on a more serious note, they engage in other risky behavior, hoping God will protect them and let them get by with it this time.  When I was in college, this was called, “sowing your wild oats on Saturday night, and praying for a crop failure on Sunday morning.” It is called putting God to the test.

The people of Israel failed to resist all three of these temptations.  We fail to resist them sometimes, too.

Imagine you are in school. The teacher says there is a final exam.  Everyone has to take it. It is a really hard test and everything depends on passing it. The good news is that as long as one person passes it, everyone passes. The really good news is that Jesus is in our class.

Jesus Christ, God in human form, passed every test that the devil threw at him.  And we are bound to Jesus Christ.

He passed all the tests and he takes us with him.  He leads us and guides us on our way. For this we can be very thankful. Amen.


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