“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.”’ Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”’ Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,” and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’ When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.”
May these words ignite our holy curiosity and creativity. Amen.
Message: Hover (preached August 18, 2019)
So often we hear this story at the beginning of Lent, and it offers a jumping-off place into our own Lenten practices. How will we fast from something, or pick up some new habit for the season that will bring us closer to God? Or, on hearing this text, we focus on the temptations of Jesus, and in the introspective tradition of the season that leads us to examine our own temptations and how we will resist them.
But this morning, I wonder. Could we pause to look at the story just a little differently?
Jesus is launching his public ministry. We don’t really know what he’s been doing for 30 years. We have a glimpse that at around age 12 (give or take) he spends some time in the temple, leaving his parent terrified on the way home, only to find him “in his father’s house.”
Based on his stories told about his ministry, we’re told he attends sabbath gatherings “as was his custom.” So, we assume that he’s spent these thirty years, learning in the temple, sitting at the feet of rabbis, taking in all that he can about God, himself, the world, the people around him.
We know he’s been baptized by his cousin John. Announced and affirmed by the voice of God. Now is the moment, the moment to begin the public ministry as the son of God. What does he do? Does he head into the streets of the cities to announce his arrival?
No. He goes into the wilderness. “Led by the Spirit,” said Luke and Matthew. Mark tells us Jesus was driven. John says nothing about this particular story.
The time has come to begin to change the world, and Jesus retreats it seems, to fast and pray in the wilderness. What is going on? He’s had thirty years, why isn’t he ready?
We’re not told, only that the spirit leads him into the desert, to a place he will meet with the opposition, and face testing and temptation.
Jesus will have just three years to invite his disciples to follow him, to invite people into a new way of living, to challenge the status quo, the religious leaders of the day, to be a new kind of king, for an entirely different kind of Kingdom. Three years to change the world, with his life, his love, his death, and resurrection.
And he begins that powerful, world-changing three years, by taking a 40-day retreat in the retreat. A 40 day time of temptation and trial that will help him focus on who he is and what he is about.
He is the son of God, fed and fueled by the word of God, not a bread-making magician.
He is love incarnate, not a valentine hearts and flowers kind of love, but a love that is more powerful than all things, a love that is more powerful than death, he is love and he worships at the feet of no one and nothing but God.
He is the Christ, and there is no need to test God, to prove anything, he knows who and whose he is.
Not only does Jesus know who and whose he is, he knows what he is about, he has been sent, not to end hunger for a short time, but to teach his disciples how to feed sheep.
He has been sent, not to rule over a few cities and nations for a time, but to teach his disciples how to build a new kindom, here and now, where all are fed, safe, loved, called.
He has been sent, not to prove his identity, his worthiness, but to invite others to experience the life-changing, healing power, of love, to experience not just wellness but wholeness.
Jesus takes time, alone in the desert, to focus on who and whose he is, and what he about. He has three years…
As our creativity series draws to an end, this is not an end, but rather a beginning, a time to spend some time with the spirit, rediscovering, reclaiming, who and whose we are and what we are about. It is a time to refocus, to see to what mission, ministry, project or person God is calling us.
As the news is filled with mass shootings, violence, and children separated from their families by war, famine, violence, and our own governments, I want answers. I want to know how to end the violence, how to stop the separations. I want God to appear, and more than that I want God to give us three easy steps to stop gun violence, three easy steps to rectify the immigration system, three easy steps to solve the global refugee crisis. I want answers. I want to know how to make a difference.
But I don’t know.
What I do know is God is already at work in the midst of detention centers, refugee camps. I trust God is in the midst of every act of violence. And I trust the wisdom and creativity of God to have solutions, but we must listen. I trust the Spirit has wisdom bigger than any party, bigger than any divide or division between us.
Pay attention to how God may be speaking to you. It won’t always be a voice from the heavens. Sometimes it is the headlines that awake within us a deep compassion and a holy, righteous answer, on behalf of God’s children.
Sometimes it is an inner nudge, a stirring that leads us gently, yet firmly.
Sometimes it is an urge that just won’t go away, a desire to do something.
Is God calling you to start something new?
Is God calling you to follow someone else’s lead for a while?
Is God calling you to teach or to learn, to stretch or to rest?
Is God calling you to forgive, to mend a relationship, to focus on just one person?
God calls each of us, at different times, in different ways.
Sometimes the call is to rest.
Sometimes it is to play.
Sometimes it is to serve, to create, to lead.
Sometimes it is to listen, to absorb the pain of another, to walk with the suffering.
To what is God calling you?