Thursday, February 22, 2007

Being challenged

First Sunday in Lent
February 25, 2007 Deuteronomy 26:1-11 Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 Romans 10:8b-13 Luke 4:1-13

The readings this week are pretty challenging
this is because we begin the season called Lent
which is perhaps the most rigorous of the Church's year.
It is a time of fasting, prayer, self denial and giving.
We are invited to use these six weeks to take our Christian call
seriously, urgently, with some flair and some gusto.
Temptation is a fact of life.
What this story reminds us more than anything
is that temptation is part of the human condition.
We know this because Jesus is tempted
and Jesus show for us what the true human life is like.
Which is interesting because we are reminded that the life of Jesus
is about being tempted...but not sinning

So we might observe:
1. Temptation is not wrong
We sometimes make the mistake of confusing temptation with sin.
We think that because we feel tempted
that some how we have sinned.
This is not logical and is not true.

2. Sin might happen when we yield to temptation
It is not the feeling angry, or jealous or attracted to someone
that is sin
It is what we choose to do with it.
We punch someone in the face, or we steal someone's money
or we commit adultery

3. Temptation comes in different shapes and sizes
We see some of the more obvious temptations
in this story...appetites, power, lusting for attention
They are not the only temptations
but they are pretty pervasive.

The Prayer Book reminds us in one of the Collects
"O God who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves"
It seems a strange thing to say in the world of omni-competent human beings
The way out of temptation
is not will-power so much
as relying on God

We will all be tempted
We will all most certainly give in to temptation
We do all need to repent of sin (let's not excuse it by saying's only human nature)
We need to rely on God to strengthen and uphold us.

Being tempted this week
pray for the Holy Spirit of God
to guard and protect you
to strengthen your will
and to enable you to be truly human
like Christ.


Jesus highlights for us where the sources of temptation might be
and how we might be tempted and
how we might repsond
First, we are tempted by our appetites
It is good to realise that we have appetites
and that these are sources of demand.
Appetites are insistent
often insatiable
and the mistake we make is in thinking that if we satisfy our appetites
then all will be well.
We can name many appetites :hunger, thirst, sex, craving affection
and so on on
THE TEMPTATION: If you satisfy the appetite then all will be well
THE LIE: We are essentially incapable of being satisfied and will always want more
THE TRUTH: There are deeper and more important things that we need to pay attention to.
The truth of this is evident to us, in the end we will not be satisfied by our appetites alone
One does not live by bread alone
Second, there are competing kingdoms
and we can give our lives completely to one or more of these.
But our ways are not God's ways, necessarily or at all,
We see this perhpas when we look at the sort of politicial world that we are intent on making
They are real enough but we canb see much in our society that is not God's plan
THE TEMPTATION: Power and authority in this world is a seductive temptation
THE LIE: The more power we have the more liek God we will be
THE TRUTH: We have no business doing anything other than God's will
Third, we can have a false view of God
we can even use the scriptures to back up our curious theories.
The fairy tale God who flies angels in and out to offer special protections
to those of us who think of ourselves as chosen
is a deeply false view of God
that often totally dominates our thinking.
It is not relationship with the God of love
it is rather the wishful thinking of the God of magic
THE TEMPTATION: To try and make God what we want God to be rather than to allow ourselves to be drawn into the difficult mystery of the crucified God
THE LIE: even allows us to quote scripture to support our inadequate case
but it is a testing line which we cross at our peril
THE TRUTH: We are called to dwell in God, not to test God's graciousness with our narrow and selfish version of what we would like the Gospel to be.

Temptation is at once easy to understand.
Yet it is also slippery and profound.
We are seduced into something far deeper than we imagine.

As we are tempted (for we surely will be)
Pray and look for grace to better understand what is being asked of us.
How does feeling the demand of appetite,
or the urge to be in control,
or the need to make God into something unreal
...when I feel this how might I respond more faithfully.
Can I seek God real will for me,
and respond to that.

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