The Gospel I read this morning was from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, and then I looked up The Message passage and I liked it a lot better. It reads:
Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: "Since you Are God's Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread." Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: "It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God's mouth."
For the second test, the Devil took him to the Holy City. He sat him on top of the Temple and said, "Since you are God's Son, jump." The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: "He has placed you in the care of angles. They will catch you so that you won't so much as stub your toe on a stone." Jesus countered with another citation from Deuteronomy: "Don't you dare test the Lord your God."
For the third test, the Devil took him on the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth's kingdoms, how glorious they all were. Then he said, "They're yours--lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they're yours." Jesus' refusal was curt: "Beat it, Satan!" He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: "Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness. "
The test was over. The Devil left. And in his place, Angels! Angels, came and took care of Jesus' needs.
While I was looking up information for my sermon I ran across a sermon by Rev. Dr. Susanna Metz. Her sermon was an inspiration to me; in the beginning of it--she quoted: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil," or "Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil." Whichever version of the Lord's Prayer you say, the request is the same: we ask God to be our strength and guide when we're faced with temptation and sin. In our Collect we just prayed: "Almighty God, come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations, and as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save. "The realities of temptation and sin are very apparent in each of our readings today.
Staples, the huge office supply chain store, once had a commercial that illustrated the power of the devil's various temptations. In their ad, whenever an individual confronted a difficult situation, all they had to do was reach over and punch a red, oversized glowing button that read "Easy". Faced with the need to balance your budget, pick up the kids from school, fix dinner, do laundry, all this after working all day, no problem, just push the Easy button. Need to do risky surgery never performed before? Hey, just push the Easy button.
Big problem, there are no Easy buttons. There are no Easy buttons to free us from the trials of the devil. Jesus taught us to pray, not "save us from temptation, but "lead us not into temptation.
In Genesis reading today we find the old familiar reading of God telling Adam that "he can eat freely of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die." We have heard of this story since Sunday school days. But poor Eve, Adam must not have told her to be careful and not eat of that certain tree or she would die.
Well, that crafty old Serpent got Eve aside and told her that she wouldn't die if she ate of that special tree, so she picked an apple and tasted it, and also cons Adam into taking a bite. Well, would you believe they didn't die as God said they would, but they did realize that they were naked. What should they do now?? God banished them from the Garden of Eden. Just think what it would be like if they hadn't taken a bite of that apple. We're not sure that it was an apple that they tasted, but whatever it was, was wrong. So many people refer to the fruit as an apple, but, apple isn't mentioned any place in the Genesis story, sounds OK to me.
Anyway, think of the heavenly place it would be if Adam and Eve hadn't listened to the serpent--we would all be in Paradise. They should have listened to God's warning, it's all their fault.
Don't you think that it is unfair that we are to suffer for what Adam and Eve did? Unfortunately, some people never learned anything different as they become adults. Maybe they feel "if only I could or would have". But, we still have a number of problems in our lives to think about.
This story teaches us that temptation and sin are part of human nature. They are part of our nature because we have been given free will to choose our own destiny. Most of us have been taught the difference between good and bad, but sometime the temptation can be greater than our resistance.
Sometimes it's easier to just join the crowd than to turn away. I, myself had many opportunities to start smoking, but my mother always said that if I started, she would start too. The thought of my mother smoking was taboo. I never did like seeing a woman with a cigarette hanging out of their mouth. It was disgusting to me.
I just wish I could conquer the temptation of eating all the rich and gooey foods that taste so good. Of course Jesus did know the necessity for human nourishment: otherwise he would not have felt compassion for the poor and hungry. Aw- that makes me feel better already. But, we have been warned that living by bread alone means that we must not give into the temptation of allowing the needs of our bodies to overwhelm our need for the word of God. Maybe if I just give up all the good gooey delicious pastries for Lent; I did this one Lenten Season and lost seven pounds. Or maybe I’ll just pay ten cents into a cup every time I say a bad word; I did this also one Lenten Season, I don't know how much I collected and maybe it's a good thing that I don’t remember.
We put ourselves into a lot of trouble just trying to be slim and trim, doing and saying the right words never thinking that God would really like us to concentrate on more important things in life. In Jesus we find our model, our guide in how to resist temptation for one thing, but even more importantly, that when we do sin we are always given the chance to repent. What greater wish could we have than to just have faith in our great redeemer.
The consequences of Adam and Eve's sin was to lose the garden. Our sinfulness causes us to lose our balance, our peace of heart. Jesus came to show us how to live. His ministry was to call us back to faithfulness--to show us how much God loves us. His love for us is so great that he died for us, to redeem us, and to rise to bring us back into a loving relationship with Him. We see in Jesus a comrade, a model, someone who knew in a human way what our struggles are.
Lent is a wonderful time to read these Scripture Stories, to remember what we've learned and what they still teach us. Lent is a time to pray for a change of heart and life, a renewal of faith. "Happy are we whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sin is put away!" AMEN