March 10, 2109 Sermon
“Remembering Whose We Are”
Old Testament Reading: Deuteronomy 26:1-11
When you have come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name.
New Testament Reading: Luke 4:1-13
Sermon: "Remembering Whose We Are" Rev. David Hawkins
Today is a day for remembering. We celebrate the Baptism of Bradley Paige, and we remember. We observe the Lord’s Supper, and we remember. We remember who we are, and why we do the things we do. We remember our first response, our first hope, our first faith, our first and only Lord.
And our scripture today invites us to go back and remember some things about Jesus as well. For last few weeks, we’ve been walking with Jesus as he begins his ministry, calling his disciples, working miracles, preaching the Sermon on the Plains, being transfigured on the Mountaintop.
But today, we go back, and remember how it all started, what happened right after Jesus was Baptized by John, but before he started walking toward Jerusalem. We remember that there was a time when Jesus was in the wilderness, with no food, no water, and nobody but the devil to keep him company.
We remember that Jesus knows all about what it feels like to be between a rock and hard place, to face difficult choices between what is good and what is best, between his own needs and the needs of the world around him. He knows all about the temptation to give his allegiance to someone other than God.
And when we hear about Jesus in the desert, it might be easy to think that we will never face these kinds of temptation, and that if we did, they seem to be pretty easy to figure out, ethically speaking at least.
But I’m not sure that’s the case. Each of these temptations, are choices between things that are good. It’s not a choice between good and bad.
When Jesus is tempted to turn the rocks into food, that is a good thing. After all, God provided manna in the desert. There was widespread famine in the Mesopotamian region on a regular basis. Food was power. Food was authority. Food would burnish his credentials as the new Moses. And besides, if Jesus could make food out of rocks, well, that would prevent uncounted deaths from starvation. How is that a bad thing?
When Jesus is tempted by political power, he was given the opportunity to overturn the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire. Jesus could be the king, the emperor, the world leader. Of course, his reign would be just, fair, his kingship would benefit everyone. He’s Jesus! Why on earth would this be a bad thing? It sounds like something he should really think about.
And the lure of religious power is great as well. The Temple priests had become corrupt. Worship had become commercial. There was money to be made, if you were in the right place at the right time, selling the right religious product. Why not take your rightful place, and clean up this unholy mess?
And then the final test, the test of faith, that if you truly believe in God, you should throw yourself headlong into whatever situation you face, and he will save you. Send your last $50 dollars to this address in California, and God will bless you. Send a thousand dollars to this preacher in Dallas, and watch God multiply your seed a hundred-fold. Make no preparations for the future, live your live on the edge, take no care, because if you love God, and trust in him, then nothing bad will ever happen to you.
The Devil knows his Bible.
But to each of these temptations, Jesus said, ‘no’. Even as the devil quoted Scripture at Jesus, Jesus said, ‘no’. ‘No’ to political power. ‘No’ to religious power. ‘No’ to being the next Caesar. ‘No’ to simply saying, “Jesus take the wheel,” and expecting everything to turn out right.
‘No’, because all these temptations meant that Jesus would surrender his allegiance to someone, or something, other than God.
Now, the truth is, we won’t be tempted by the same things that Jesus was. We won’t be given the opportunity to rule the world. We’re not likely to turn stones into bread. It’s hard enough to do with actual flour, yeast and water. Most of us aren’t going to test the providence of God, unless of course the Lottery gets up to around a billion dollars again.
We won’t be tempted by the same things, but we will be tempted in the same way. Our temptations will be between things that are good. The Devil will use language that appeals to our comfort, our ambition, our own needs and wants.
And this is why memory is so important. We’ve been down this road before, we’ve heard these words before, we’ve felt this pressure before. And we don’t need to go there. Because Jesus has already gone that way for us.
Jesus has been there for us. Jesus has been there in the desert, in the wilderness, in those lonely times when we feel like we’re alone. Jesus has been there: hungry, thirsty, desperate. Jesus has felt the tug of temptation. Even more than you or I have, he has known what it feels like to think about what it might be like if he simply lowered his expectations a little bit, compromised his beliefs just a little bit, adjusted his ethics just a little bit.
The season of Lent is many things, but most of all, Lent is a time to remember. To remember that God has gone this way before us, and for us. That Jesus Christ has experienced the worst of our human existence: temptation, pain, even death itself, and overcome it. We need not fear the easy seductive words of the Devil, because they hold no power over us.
In the waters of our baptism, Jesus has said ‘no’ to the devil on behalf of all humanity. No to sin, no to guilt, no to shame, no to death.
And that’s something worth remembering, over and over and over again.