Sermon March 6th, 2022: On Temptations and Trusting God...
“May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you O God”
Our Gospel reading this morning is the extremely familiar story of Jesus being tested or tempted in the wilderness. The Spirit has led Jesus to the wilderness, he is tempted, Jesus successfully resists the temptations and returns to Galilee full of the Spirit and ready to do God’s work.
Done and dusted.
Were the temptations really that difficult? How was Jesus able to resist seemingly so easily? Jesus knows his Torah! He counters the tempter each time with Scripture.
In the first temptation Jesus is challenged to change a stone into bread. The tempter is trying to provoke Jesus into using Divine power to satisfy his hunger. Tempting - after all he must be pretty hungry by this point. But Jesus turns to Deuteronomy 8:3 and answers the tempter with the notion that a human life is more than cravings. Jesus reminds the tempter that humans are not solely responsible for their own well being. We need to lean into the Spirit’s leading. And this is where Jesus is more powerful than the tempter - he is confident in following the Spirit into the unknown.
In many ways this is really a leap of faith. To follow where the Spirit is leading. What about us? Are we willing to follow where the Spirit is leading or are we more apt to believe that we are solely responsible for our own well being?
The second trial is perhaps even more tempting. Wealth and power. Control over everything Jesus can see. In human history more than one person has given into this temptation.
Jesus again turns to Deuteronomy. Jesus will not worship the tempter because only God is to be worshiped. If achieving fame by worshiping the tempter than the price is too high. We could question whether the tempter could even offer what it claims to - after all everything really belongs to God. Jesus rejects the offer because there is no price on his loyalty.
What about us? It is tempting to think what we could do with a little fame or power - think of the good things we could do. The better world we could create! Again - this temptation leads us to believe we can do it all on our own. And that is a dangerous spot to be.
And now we come to the third trial. And this one is the most difficult. In this trial the tempter turns to scripture and quotes from the psalms. The tempter suggests that God will not let any harm come to Jesus - go on - jump! Lets see what happens. And again Jesus turns to Deuteronomy. Do not put God to the test.
Jesus’ response suggests that scripture should not be used to cast doubt on God’s presence with God’s people. Scripture is a reminder of God’s presence, even in the wilderness.
Do we try to put God on trial? What about when we doubt our prayers are heard? Do we doubt God’s presence in our lives? This is a real temptation for us. And it has an echo of the earlier ones. We put God to the test when we believe we can do it all on our own.
Perhaps this is the most serious of the 3 tests or temptations. And one we can easily identify with.
What tempts us? Food? Fame? Power? Wealth? Sex? Our consumer driven society is littered with temptations. But the most serious temptation is to put God to the test. To question God’s presence in our lives. To question God’s love for all of creation.
To think that we can do it all on our own. To be tempted by self-reliance and individualism. This is a sneaky temptation because we are taught that self-reliance and independence are virtues.
In the Sunday discussion group we have spent the past few weeks listening to the Sacred Teachings Podcasts from the Anglican Church of Canada’s indigenous ministries. A common thread or theme has been one of the core values of indigenous peoples. We are all interconnected. We are all connected to all the created world. We have forgotten this. We forget this.
And we fall into the temptation of believing we can do this all on our own - we do not need God and we do not need anyone else. We believe that we are stronger or better than others. Look at where this temptation leads. It leads to the destruction of life. It leads to the destruction of plant and animal species, of the destruction of our natural world. It leads to people controlling other people. It leads to thinking we can do whatever we want, take whatever we want.
This is a temptation we must struggle against. We must not give into this temptation. We must not put ourselves above God. We must not forget that everything on this planet is interconnected. We need each other to survive.
If we give into the temptation to put God to the test, to doubt God’s presence in our lives, to believe we can do it all alone we sin. We break the great commandment to love God and neighbour.