21 Feb, 2021

A Most Common Temptation

21 Feb, 2021

A Most Common Temptation

by Tim Mooney

Our text today portrays Jesus being tempted by the Devil.  The Greek word, “to be tempted,” indicates a period or process of testing, trial, temptation, enticement; to test one maliciously.  If you will, the pushing of ones buttons.  We know this text well – the repartee between the Devil and Jesus are unforgettable!  I think we picture them squaring off toe-to-toe, in an emotional, spit-flying, mano a mano battle like Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men: “I want the truth!”  “You can’t handle the truth!!”

But I wonder: Do we have to hear it that way?

What exactly is the temptation Jesus faces?  The temptation is not to prove he can miraculously turn stones into bread to feed himself; it is not to prove he is so valuable that angels will catch him if he throws himself off a temple; it is not to prove his power by ruling the kingdoms of the world and enjoying their splendor.  The temptation is that Jesus would take offense, and become defensive.  In the first two temptations, the Devil taunts, “If you are the Son of God…”  The Devil challenges Jesus’ deepest identity, which had just been confirmed as he rose from the river Jordan.  The Spirit descended on him, and a voice from heaven said, This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.  If Jesus had taken the bait, and took offense, “Of course I’m the Son of God, let me prove it,” the Devil would have Jesus right where he wanted him, on the defensive.  The Devil’s third temptation was about who Jesus belonged to, worshiped, whose he was.  I can see Jesus tempted to lash out at the Devil for even the thought of bowing down and worshiping him.  But again, that would have put Jesus on the defensive.

The great Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther, wrote, “The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.”

I picture Jesus on the verge of lashing out angrily at the Devil; then he catches himself.  He sees the absurdity of worshiping the Devil.  Then he laughs at the Devil, “Dude, you are killing me!  Me worship you?  OMG!  Are you on drugs?  Away with you, Satan!  For it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

If we have been paying even a little attention to our culture, our politics, and our social discourse on social media, we will acknowledge and perhaps confess, that taking offense, and becoming defensive have become the norm.  But when we take offense, and become defensive, our world gets small, and so does our circle of love.  We circle the wagons, close tight our hearts, defend our sense of self and us, making it more difficult to expand and grow our compassion, empathy, and understanding.  All this defensiveness makes life much more convoluted and conflicted; it makes us less kind and generous.

It might sound simplistic, but Jesus simplified it for us.  Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.  On this hangs the law and the prophets.  When we are tempted to take offense, and become defensive, let us remember who and whose we are.  We are beloved sons and daughters of God; in life and in death, we belong to God.  Also, let us remember what we are.  At the end of the creation story, God declares all of it – us included – to be “Very good!”  It’s not easy, but it is simple.  Amen.

When we are tempted to take offense, and become defensive, let us remember who and whose we are. We are beloved sons and daughters of God; in life and in death, we belong to God. Also, let us remember what we are. At the end of the creation story, God declares all of it – us included - to be “Very good!”

Reverend Tim ended his sermon with an original song. Lyrics below:

“Life is So Simple”

Life is so simple, but we make it hard.
We take offense so quickly, and close tight our hearts.
But underneath these shields, we find wounds so deep.
And these swords we wield, hide the shame we keep.
So only in our dreams, in the hours of sleep,
Will we let our souls weep.

Life is so simple, but we make it hard.
We hold onto judgments, entitlement we guard.
There’s no one to blame, each soul longs to be blessed.
We have different names, but with love each one said.
Our skins have different colors, but our blood runs red,
We have hearts in our chests.

Life is so simple, but we make it hard.
We seem so separate, but of the whole we are a part.
We are what we seek, we are more than enough,
The love given we keep, joy is offered in every touch.
The suffering seems endless, but it opens us up,
And grace fills our cup.

It seems so out of reach, but it’s not that far.
There’s a hidden wholeness, it’s who we are.

Life is so simple, but we make it hard.
No soul is manufactured, it is a work of art.
Take off the facade, our truth will ring.
We are the Beloved, the Spirit within us springs.
Consider the ravens, they don’t cling to a thing,
We were meant to take wing, to sing, to sing!
Life is so simple.

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