Sermon St. Dunstan’s 3.10.19
“Almighty God, Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations…” (collect)
On Jesus’ very first public day of ministry, he hears his father- GOD, say to him as he comes up out of the baptismal waters of the River Jordan, “ This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”- and before the water had barely dried on his skin, the Spirit of God is leading him into the wilderness for a 40-day fast– “where he was tempted by the devil”.
I started wondering about this “quick escorted -exit” Jesus makes from the Jordan- to go out into the desert wilderness, give up food for 40 days- (As one who thinks about the next meal to come most of the time, giving up food while you are in the desert for a month+ seems rather dangerous.)
But I found, as I looked further, the ancients, as well as disciples today consider this an essential spiritual discipline for a lot of reasons- to retreat from the distractions of the world, (go into the wilderness) and to open themselves up to the wisdom and guidance of GOD.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book The Cost of Discipleship, said, “Jesus takes it for granted that His disciples will observe the pious custom of fasting. Strict exercise of self-control is an essential feature of the Christian life. Such customs have only one purpose — to make the disciples more ready and cheerful to accomplish those things which God would have done.”
Hmmm- “ to be made more ready to …accomplish those things which God would have done.” Bonhoeffer believed that fasting prepares us for the works
God has ordained for us to do.
The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness- the HS brought him there to be tempted…to reveal Jesus’ TRUE Spiritual condition…to fast and prepare for what God sent him to accomplish…
The Wilderness: that place for throwing off all dependencies and loyalties– a disciplined withdrawal, a retreat from the world of self-indulgence and distractions that take away our resolve to be obedient and trusting; and distract us from acknowledging everything we have comes from God alone.
The wilderness is also the first place Elijah was led by the HS to build strength for his vocation… the Wilderness- where John the Baptist was led to become the powerful, the mission-led voice in the wilderness…and where Paul was led after his amazing conversion experience- to gather knowledge and guidance from the Holy Spirit for his new identity as an apostle of Christ and a beloved child of GOD.
I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of of my time wandering in my own desert wilderness, finding those dependencies and loyalties I thought I’d thrown off, jump right back on me with their seductive, attractive and subtle voices of temptation whispering in my ear…those whispering voices that seek to talk me out of obeying God, of taking shortcuts and cheat to avoid God’s call to mission, avoiding looking at my own Spiritual condition- am I ready to resist temptation-to resist the derailing of what God created and is calling me to be-his beloved child-to reflect his image in the world? Has the Holy Spirit brought me to the wilderness to be made more ready to …accomplish those things which God has ordained for me? As I wander… is my true spiritual condition revealed to the Holy Spirit?
Just like in the book of Exodus-we are God’s people in the desert of our own making- in the wilderness-wandering, wondering, doubting, grumbling, hungry-yearning for the worldly life left behind, tempted to go back to our old life…tempted to rebel, to disobey, and to mistrust.
Tempted and distracted enough to forget how God is loving us every step of the way, tempted to forget how God calls us to know, love and worship him– in the wilderness we find ourselves in- are we too caught up in our own distracted wandering, to remember how GOD delivered us and lovingly continues to deliver us from the the horrible place we cried out to him for help in the first place? “Tempted to”…can be summed up in a 3 letter word: SIN.
N.T. Wright puts it this way, “To see temptation in terms of rules we would like to break, or impulses we must learn to tame…[is] to see temptation itself in terms of negatives…The truth is very different. Every moment, God calls us to know, love and worship him...and reflect his image in the world…Temptations lure us to turn away from that privilege and invitation, to lower our gaze, shorten our sights and settle for second best or worse…the Greek word for sin is ‘missing the mark’…Sin…drops short [of the mark], short of the call to true humanness, to bearing and reflecting God’s image.”So where do we begin to do this fasting and wilderness-wandering in this season of LENT? How do we find our way back to who God created us to be? How can we change after those whispering voices of temptation have been in our ear for decades?
Today, we are being introduced to a new way of “fasting” for Lent…you and I are invited to fast as a community- be led into the wilderness together to find our way back to being the image-bearers of God and reflecting GOD’s image in the world around us.
During Lent, the Spirit is leading us to be made more ready to accomplish those things which God has ordained for us- to shine the love and light of Christ on everyone we meet…
Because we are turning away from the whispered temptations and distractions, and Giving up what the world tempts us to do- taking up loving GOD and our Neighbor.
Give up HARSH words- Use GENEROUS ones
Give up UNHAPPINESS – Take up GRATITUDE
Give up ANGER- Use GENTLENESS and PATIENCE
Give up PESSIMISM- Take up HOPE and OPTIMISM
Give up WORRYING- Take up TRUSTING in GOD
Give up COMPLAINING-Take up VALUING what you have
Give up STRESS- Take up PRAYER
Give up JUDGING others- Take up DISCOVERING JESUS within them
Give up SORROW and BITTERNESS-Take up FILLING your heart with JOY
Give up SELFISHNESS- Take up COMPASSION for others
Give up being UNFORGIVING- Take up learning RECONCILIATION
Give up WORDS- Take up filling yourself with SILENCE, LISTENING to others
-anonymous, Latin America
My brothers and sisters, I pray as we step into the wilderness together, we will recognize and see Jesus walking before us and along side of us- giving us strength and power to resist the temptations whispered in our ears as we move closer and closer to Christ in our Lenten wilderness and fast. AMEN