First Sunday of Lent, Year C
“Just this once”
When I was in college, I had a few friends who influenced me to skip class. The conversation usually started like this, “Did you study?”
“No. Did you?”
“Do you really want to go to class?”
"Let’s go to the bookstores!” That was our temptation (When I preached this on Sunday, Feb. 25, a room full of college students/grads yelled this at me, NERD!)
So James & I got in his little Honda Civic & drove to pick up David who as usual was late for class. We threw David in the backseat as he knew where all the best bookstores were. We drove away to David’s wife screaming, “David, don’t you spend all the grocery money!”
I gave in to temptation this morning. A quilt magazine advertising… (for my blog on quilts see my likes to the right of this post) it’s like they knew me…quilts, shortcuts to making quilts, lots of bright colors, glossy pictures and oooh stickers! So I stuck the stickers on the little cute card & popped it in the mail counting the days to getting my first magazine & oooh free book! Forget the 24.95 plus 5.97 shipping. That’s way off in the future.
Last night I was walking through Wal-Mart and just tried to step back and see what temptation had to do with walking down action alley the center aisle…Everything screamed "buy me buy me" and with a credit card that is not maxed in my purse, well, that is temptation. There is a blanket softer than mine there is a new DVD I don’t have in my collection and oooh look at that new sweater than would just match my eyes…. You know most people call this advertising but the Bible calls it temptation.
We get a wrong picture of this scene with Jesus if we think he is out in the wilderness & an ugly devil in a red suit with a face like an Orc and a voice like Vader. That is not how temptation works. In the book of proverbs temptation is a sexy woman seeking to devour. As much as I hate to refer to this because it makes women look bad, I can’t get away from what Proverbs really says.
How is Jesus tempted? First it is about feeding his own hunger. Turn these stones into bread. Anything wrong with this? How about using your power for selfish gain just this once. Just this once. It’s like one drink won’t hurt you or one indulgence in porn or just one affair one little lunch
Jesus resists because he knows human nature even his own human nature….and there is no such thing as just one lay potato chip or krispy kreme…whatever you gave up for lent in the blank…just one just one.
The next temptation is about bowing down to the authority of the world. Just this once the devil says play the game and step on the other on the way to the top. Google your homework subject and turn in someone else’s paper as your own. Just this once it won’t matter.
Annie had been married a year when she meets the man she thinks was meant for her. Now this is what she thought of her current husband before she married him and found him not quite as romantic as he was when they were dating. He squeezed the toothpaste in the middle and he always hogged the remote and he was too busy to pay attention to any kind of romance. They both got busy with their jobs and then Annie met Gary. Gary was attentive when George, her husband was distracted. Gary was poetic when George was matter of fact. Gary complimented her when George didn’t see a new outfit…and George never meant any harm and neither did Gary. But suddenly she found herself seeking Gary’s attention more than George’s and wishing she had waited one more year to get married…if only she had waited then she would have met Gary first and her life would not be miserable. Gary was single and perhaps naïve and perhaps he didn’t know what his attention was doing to Annie or maybe he did. She did not know. But one night when George was out of town and Annie and Gary had a late night business meeting she found herself walking out of her office building with him. He was being gallant and offered to walk her to her car and when she got there she realized she was shaking. If only he wouldn’t leave. Suddenly she remembered feeling this way about George. She remembered all the times they had shared together and thought of their dreams and wondered what would happen to them if she just asked Gary to get in the car with her. And then she knew. She could not do this. She could end her marriage for one night with Gary. She could not destroy the future of her community with just one night. She said good-bye to Gary and got in the car and drove home to an empty house. Maybe she could catch George on the phone before he went to sleep.
Sadly many stories similar to this do not end this way. Soaps and movies tell us that we are unable to resist temptation because we are just made this way. For some reason people begin to think that there is “nothing wrong with love” and destroy homes with just one time. But what would have happened if Jesus had bowed to the authority of Satan? I can’t imagine it.
Then we have the final temptation of falling off the pinnacle of the temple. Letting angels catch him fame fame fame everyone would know his power and there would be no doubts about who he was. Kingdom come and kingship and overthrowing Caesar would be nothing. Lightning bolts flashing he could ride into Rome on the back of a white stallion with the whole Jewish nation behind him….
I was trying to picture a temptation scene & this is what came to mind (I showed a clip of the movie Cars where Lightning McQueen is imagining what fame will be like) perhaps because it is watched over and over at my house. What is the temptation here and why is it similar to Jesus’ temptation? Fame. Glory. No road to the cross and no Pharisees harassing him because they could not deny his power if they saw it, right?
Later when Jesus performs miracles even in front of the Pharisees, a leading religions group, they still deny who he is. They see him heal with their own eyes and THEY STILL DON’T believe. Have you ever met someone in complete denial of their own problems? Nothing you can do will change their minds.
What is the end of fame? Usually a lonely death of a drug overdose, plane crash, or huge scandal that the media sets up for you. We may even think Jesus would have been better off doing it this way…but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the famous usually end up last weeks’s news when something bigger and better comes along.
So what does Jesus do? He refuses the devil’s offers now matter how attractive. He knows charging up a load of stuff at Wal-Mart on the credit cards will eventually land you a huge bill in the mail, turning in a copied paper will get you a poor academic record and you cheat yourself out of your own education, breaking a home in the name of love will only get you broken pieces after a huge adrenaline rush and fame will get you perhaps a reality TV show where you share a house or an island with a bunch of other stinky has beens wishing for a way to climb to the top—usually by voting you off the island.
So why do we give in when Jesus didn’t? He is supposed to be our example, right? Most say well of course he did not give in he was God. Orthodox Christianity affirms that Jesus is fully human. Temptation means nothing if isn’t possible for us to give in…or for Jesus to give in for that matter.
Someone said to me yesterday that evil people don’t bother him and good people don’t bother him but someone who is both good and evil do bother him. I think that is because we don’t want to admit that we are fully capable of evil.
But those capable of evil are fully capable of accepting the grace offered to us. The grace offered to us by the one who could have given in but did not and who stands with open arms waiting for us at the table…because we need this strength if we are going to resist the voices screaming at us when we walk out of this room…to give in to the things our bodies are craving but that will bring chaos and pain to the community if we give in. So join me here at the table as we together beg the one who resisted evil to give us the strength to unite and to resist as well.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.