a priest's musings on the journey

Friday, February 23, 2007

Sermonette: Lent 1 C Feb 25, 2007 The Great Temptation

Luke 4:1-13

4Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2where 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. 3The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” 5Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And 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. 7If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 9Then 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, 10for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ 11and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 12Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

This all too familiar story from the life of Jesus is often seen as Jesus’ great test: his temptation to yield to Satan’s temptations to sin, and his victory over those temptations. Jesus has just emerged from the baptismal waters of the Jordan, where the Holy Spirit had descended upon Him and he had heard the voice of God declaring that this was his beloved Son in whom he was pleased. This same Spirit immediately drove Jesus to the desert for a time of preparation and spiritual reflection. Here Jesus fasted and prayed and grappled with his identity and the work he was called to do. At the climax of his spiritual quest, Satan came to him, tempted him to take the easy road and offered an alternative way for Jesus to live out His mission in the world. Jesus identity was not in question. Even Satan conceded that he was the Son of God. Satan’s temptation was not for Jesus to deny his identity as the Son of God. However, Satan wanted to tempt Jesus to consider changing the implications of what that meant for Jesus and his work in the world. He wanted Jesus to compromise just a bit so that the work of God would not be fully accomplished. With each temptation Jesus not only affirmed his identity, but he also affirmed his intention to be obedient to the mission that God had claimed for him. Jesus refused to compromise and to take the easy road to Messiah-ship. He refused to acknowledge the Temptor’s attempt to frustrate the saving work he was called to accomplish.

During these days of Lent, each of us is confronted with a desert experience in which we are called to spend time with the Spirit in order to grapple with our identities and callings. We too have been filled with the Holy Spirit and claimed as God’s own beloved sons and daughters through the waters of baptism. We have been united to Christ, grafted into his body, and commissioned to carry out the work he began. We too are faced with temptations to short cut God’s work, to take the easy road, to do just enough Gospel work to make us look like followers of Jesus Christ and to be engaged in mission just enough to salve our consciences and ease our guilt. We are challenged during Lent to reaffirm our identity as God’s beloved, as the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, and as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. We are called to recommit ourselves to the work that God has called us to do- to re-evaluate our gifts and our stewardship of them.

At this point in our corporate life, the Episcopal Church is being challenged to affirm its mission and identity as a part of Christ’s Body. We are being tempted to compromise our mission; to give up part of what God dreams for us to be; to accept an identity that is less than the vision and promise that God has for us. We are being tempted to allow ourselves to be shaped by the values and mission of the world, because it is becoming to hard to allow ourselves to be stretched by the values and mission of the Kingdom of God, of which we are called to be ambassadors. As we wrestle with who God has called us to be and how the Holy Spirit is guiding us to represent God and His Realm in the earth, we too find ourselves in the wilderness, called to a fast, called to prayer and discernment. The Primates have asked us to clarify what we have heard the Voice in the Cloud declare unto us. Our Presiding Bishop has asked us to be patient and to fast same sex blessings and ordinations of coupled gays and lesbians for a season, I suppose as a sign of good will and a sign of our willingness to listen. But, which voice is catching our attention? The voice that is rooted in fear and calls us to a mission of excluding those from the life of the Church who are different from us? The voice of tyranny which calls us to a mission of oppressing the minority and denying blessing to some who are raising their cups to draw from the well of grace? Or will we listen to the voice of Christ and his call for us to proclaim the gospel to the poor, to liberate the oppressed, and to set the prisoners free?

Yes, it is time to proclaim a fast. But a fast that oppresses and excludes anyone from the River of God’s grace that freely flows from the Throne of God is unacceptable to God. The fast that is acceptable to God is the fast of our fears, our selfishness, our hatred, our pride, our self-centeredness. It is a fast that loves mercy and does justice. How can we claim to affirm God’s acceptance of us and God’s call for us to participate in his mission of reconciliation when we back away from the full vision of God’s calling? How can we claim to be the Body of Christ when we are willing to place the shackles of fear and exclusion back on the hands and feet of gays and lesbians as we contemplate whether or not we will carry on the liberating work of the Liberating Christ? How can we hear God call us to be a House of Prayer to All People, and then shut the door to gays and lesbians for a season, until we figure out what to do with them?

The Primates are right. It is time for clarity. Although they tempt us to take a step back from the mission to which we have been called, it is time for us to humbly accept and to boldly proclaim God’s commission to us. It is time to take a stand and to say we are a Church that welcomes whosoever will come; we are a Church that loosens the chains of oppression, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, shelters the homeless, comforts the sick, welcomes the outcast, and loves every human being unconditionally and totally. It is time to be clear, that we intend to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ and invite all to the waters of life. It is time to make it clear that we will bar no one from the Table of grace, that every person has a seat at the Lamb’s High Feast, that everyone is welcome to come have fellowship with God and God’s people. It is time to be clear that we are a people motivated, empowered, claimed, and identified by love; and when we cease to love, we cease to be the living Body of Christ. When we yield to the temptations to conform just a little to the values of the world, when we exclude just one person, we cease to be who God had claimed us to be, and God’s work in the world is diminished.

When I was in the Pentecostal Church, we used to sing a song:

Jesus breaks every fetter
Jesus breaks every fetter
Jesus breaks every fetter
And he sets us free

Now is the moment of decision. Will we proclaim the release of the captives? Will we lead the oppressed through the liberating waters of the Jordan River into the glorious redemptive freedom of the Promised Land? Or will we turn our backs on them, place the fetters back on the ones who have already tasted freedom in Christ and dam the waters of grace for the oppressed still crying out for deliverance? Will we be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, or will we succumb to the temptations a false Messiah, who only wants to offer grace to an exclusive group of privileged chosen ones? Now is the moment for us to raise our voices and declare that we are the sons and daughters of God, and that we will not be dissuaded, that we shall not be moved, that we will not turn back, that we will not give up, that we will not stop loving and proclaiming the Gospel until all come within the saving embrace of the Lord of Love.

Let it be so. Amen.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 9:26 AM


please pardon my comment if this seems inappropriate, but certainly it is not intended to be a challenge to your sermonette, merely a question i pose to others as well as to myself.....indeed Jesus' message is one of liberation -"Jesus breaks every fetter, he sets us free.."
my only question is, what is freedom?
is it simply how contemporary mainstream american society defines it as "the pursuit of happiness", or as the song once said "anything goes"? the freedom to do what we please?

what is he freeing us from?
traditionally in basic christian teaching(and standard theological thinking, as i understand it) -it is freedom from death, and death which is manifested in sin and humanity's "sin-full nature" which comes from disobedience to God from when Adam brought the curse upon his descendants.

Jesus' life and example was an antidote to this dis-obedience, his fast in the desert was an epitome of this.

the season of the great fast we call 'lent' is a time when we are supposed to prepare ourselves to enter back into communion with God in paradise -just like the repentant thief, through the "bridal chamber" which is the passage to the feast of feasts that is Pascha- the Holy Resurrection. the path towards that bridal chamber is through carrying the cross by our fasting from what Adam failed to fast from in the garden.
instead of eating of the "forbidden tree" of disobedience; we eat of the fruit of the vine which is Jesus himself by his example and sacrifice.

now the question is, how does one define sin?....and more importantly, how do we define obedience to God, and dis-obedience?
Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:30 PM  
Freedom to be truly human, as Jesus was. Freedom to live into God's claim on us as His beloved sons and daughters. Freedom to be a real part of the Church into which we have become members in Baptism, and freedom to exercise our gifts in the Body of Christ in which the Holy Spirit has made us members.
Blogger PadreRob+, at 7:15 AM  

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