Luke 4: 1-13
14 February 2016
“Take my lips, oh Lord, and speak through them; take our minds and think with them. Take our hearts and set them on fire, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Last Wednesday we began another Lenten season. We began with ashes, “remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”, smudged on our foreheads and into our hearts.
Ash Wednesday recollects for us our humanity, our mortality, our place in God’s kingdom. Today’s readings also call to mind our human place in God’s kingdom. They show us some of the ways we are called to respond during this hope filled Lenten season.
In our reading from Deuteronomy we heard what is, essentially, a liturgy for the offering of first fruits. The reading is set within the context of Moses’ speech to the people just before they enter the promised land. The Israelites are reminded that they are to recall their dependence upon God for the gift of the land and for the harvests they will receive from it. The reading holds what we could call a kind of creed, one that expresses the Israelites’ understanding of God’s working in their history. But this remembering is more than just reminiscing. The ritual of thanksgiving makes that understanding of God an effectual part of their day-to day-lives. We may work, and work hard, for the fruits of our lives but it is God who gives us what we have and God who blesses us as we use what we are given. Like our ancient faith ancestors our identity is inseparable from our experience of God’s presence. What about the Psalm? It calls us to trust in God’s mercy. We are reminded that we can always take refuge in our Lord God. Our very human mortality does not need to stir up fear or anxiety. By faith we are reminded that we can know ourselves held safely in God’s arms, no matter what. And then there is Paul who calls us to an incredible empowered and empowering humanity. We are not saved by our works or by our merit but entirely by the grace that comes from centering our lives on God.
First we heard Paul remind us, “the word is very near you, on your lips and in your heart” I’ll quote again from Paul’s letter to the Romans: “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on [God]”. Paul is saying that absolutely everyone who confesses faith in Jesus Christ is reconciled to live in right relationship with God. No exceptions. There are no good excuses for believing ourselves to be less than what God calls us to be. We are equipped for this season with thankfulness, with trust, and with humility. And so we come to our Gospel reading. We come to the Lukan understanding of Jesus’ wilderness experience.
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, … was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit …was led.” To put it another way Jesus went into the wilderness whole and complete. He went in faithful obedience, not driven out into some kind of exile. Jesus went into the wilderness led by God, accompanied by God, and filled by God. In other words Jesus went into that wilderness caught up in an entirely new dimension of relationship with God He went empowered to reveal that new dimension of relationship to others, to us. Jesus shows us that we are never alone in our trips into the desert places of our lives. We too are filled with and led by God’s Holy Spirit. We too can go on in the sure knowledge that we are led by God, accompanied by God, and filled by God. Here’s the thing. Today we are called forth once again to walk with Jesus into the desert spaces of our lives. What will this Lenten season be for you as you journey on into the new life in Christ that you have already received? Perhaps it is worth pausing for a moment here. Stop for just a minute.
Breath in, breath out, and listen to that voice, that nay-sayer, the voice that tempts you to despair or inaction. What does the evil one say to you? It is different, and the same, I suspect for all of us. We heard Jesus tempted to meet his own needs first. We heard Jesus tempted to misuse his power. We heard Jesus tempted into simple solutions. We saw Jesus stripped down to the essence of his own self and tempted by the easiest of defenses
against his own humanity, his own mortality. We saw him as he stood firm, covered only with his thankfulness, his trust, and his humility. Equipped and empowered with thankfulness for nourishment that is more than food, trusting in God in ways that go beyond testing, and humble enough to be inspired by the God who filled and accompanied him always Jesus was prepared to begin his ministry. What of us? We are so often tempted by unrealistic, even unnatural expectations held up for us by the media, by our culture. We fear our lack of control, we allow ourselves be limited by our lack of power, we decry our age, our lost youth with it’s illusion of strength. We hide behind what we already know, behind family, behind our fears and our scars, behind what is profitable or productive. And still God fills us, accompanies us and leads us. And still God holds out those gifts of thankfulness, trust and humility. And still God calls us into this Lenten journey, this Christian journey, through the desert spaces of our lives and into that deeper and fuller dimension of relationship with God. God calls us into our own ministries just as surely as God called Jesus. God equips us for our ministries, just as surely as God equipped Jesus. God empowers us to reveal our blessed relationship with God to others as surely as God empowered Jesus. As we walk with Jesus we are never alone. We are led by the Spirit and filled with the Spirit as we are led again into our desert spaces, into our Lenten journeys. This year I challenge you to be listen to what God is calling you to be, however frail and insignificant, however mortally human that is.
I challenge you to grow in thanksgiving, in trust, in humility. I challenge you to know that the Word is indeed very near to you, “on your lips and in your heart” I challenge you to grow in newness of life and to share that life with others. Amen.