The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews
St. Joseph-St. John, Lakewood
10 March 2019
Lent 1, C
Before I’d looked at today’s text,
I knew that it would be Jesus’ temptation
in the wilderness.
In the passage today,
who may or may not be
a fallen angel
or the Adversary or Tempter
comes to Jesus at the end of a 40 day fast.
This devil prays
on the fullness of Jesus’ humanity.
Knowing that Jesus hasn’t eaten for 40 days,
he challenges Jesus’ role
as the Son of God.
Jesus goes to the wilderness to fast
immediately after he’s been baptized.
He’s led by the Spirit
to cleanse himself
after God’s pleased-ness
has been pronounced.
The devil says
“If you are the son of God,
make some bread for yourself”
Jesus tells him there’s more to living
than eating bread.
Having failed to goad Jesus into a miracle,
Jesus having nothing to prove,
the devil takes him to see all the world’s kingdoms.
“If you worship me,
I’ll give you all this authority.”
Jesus reminds him that the commandment
is to worship only God.
Jesus also knows that
he's come into the world
to claim his authority as God’s son
over and against the devil’s.
As a last effort,
the devil challenges Jesus’ faith.
“Let yourself jump.
If you really believe the scriptures,
you must know that they say you’ll be safe.”
Jesus just rebukes him
about not testing God.
This story of Jesus’ testing and tempting in the wilderness
is good for the whole of the Christian life.
Certainly, about five days in, we might be noticing
the pangs of our fasts
or the unfaithfulness in our prayers
as we cleanse ourselves for these 40 days.
It’s not only when we’re fasting
that we face temptations,
particularly temptations against
our identity, our vanity, and our faith.
We hear this text every year on the First Sunday in Lent,
because facing temptation and relying on God
is essential for building and living
a baptismal faith.
Whether we’re preparing for baptism
or preparing to renew our baptismal promises,
we know that we’ll face temptation.
By knowing that we’ll face it,
we can practice getting through it
with strength from God
following Jesus’ example,
led by the Spirit.
The invitation to a Holy Lent,
which I read and offered on Wednesday,
does a great job telling us why failed Lenten fasts
and misplaced Lenten disciples are good for us.
It’s not because we’re bad people
or even because we’re broken fallen individuals.
These forty days of cleansing
aren't forty days of mortifying the flesh.
They’re penitent to be sure!
Lenten fasts and their fails
remind us that God is faithful to forgive us
when we acknowledge our sins.
Those being baptized make three big renunciations:
Satan and all the spiritual forces
of wickedness that rebel against God;
the evil powers of this world
which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God; and
all sinful desires that draw them from the love of God.
They later promise that when they fall into sin
they will repent and return to the Lord.
Hearing the story of Jesus’ temptation
is a reminder that we will be tempted.
Hearing it during Lent,
“the whole congregation is put in mind
of the message of pardon and absolution
set forth in the Gospel of our Savior,
and of the need which all Christians continually have
to renew their repentance and faith.”
For pardon and absolution,
we have to be mindful of our sin.
To be more mindful of our sin,
we have to notice when we’re tempted.
By giving ourselves particular disciplines,
goals try to reach during Lent,
we can’t not notice when we miss the mark.
If we can notice how we miss the mark during Lent,
we may be better prepared
to notice how we miss the mark
throughout our lives.
In this time when people are preparing for baptism
and we’re preparing to renew baptismal promises
at the Easter Vigil
many of us have sought disciples for ourselves.
We’ll have varying degrees of making those commitments.
When we fail at them,
we're reminded that we’re not Jesus.
We won’t always rebuke temptations;
sometimes we’ll give in.
No matter how many times we fail,
God is ready to forgive us.
Over, and over, and over again.
It’s going to happen.
How well do we notice it?
What do we confess during the silence
before the General Confession each week?
What would you say if you were to make a private confession?
Charles Spurgeon once said,
“You are a great sinner,
but he is a greater Savior.”
Martin Luther said,
But believe even more boldly in Christ,
As you face temptations this Lent,
physical, mental, spiritual,
notice when you fail.
When you miss the mark in your daily life
of loving Christ and your neighbor,
When you’ve fallen into sin,
repent, return to the Lord, and rejoice.