“Honest Hearts, Raise the Roof” February 26-2023
“Honest Hearts, Raise the Roof”
And welcome one and all to this glorious day, the first Sunday in the season of Lent. As you know, the Lenten season is the 40 day period preceding Easter Sunday in which we are encouraged to do a little soul searching, if you will. This self examination is meant to be bolstered by the practices of prayer, repentance, alms giving, And self denial to name a few. So, it should come as no surprise that the gospel reading for this. the first Sunday of Lent. Is always Matthew’s story of the temptation of Christ: 40 days of heat and misery and starvation, Followed by The niggling of a first class jerk who tries his best coax Jesus to defy The father who put him into this mess in the first place.
But here’s the thing: For as many times as I have read this story. There is something about it That has always puzzled me.
Now, we all remember the scriptural account of the baptism of Christ; of how John the Baptist dunked him into the river Jordan and the spirit of the Lord came down like a dove. this was followed by a voice from the heavens proclaiming. “This is my son, with whom I am well pleased.” It is a glorious and feel good moment And it’s safe to say that the baptism marks the beginning of the ministry of Christ, right? But from that high point, that illustrious moment, what happens next? (Matt 4:1) 1 Then the Spirit led Jesus up into the wilderness so that the devil might tempt him. 2 After Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was starving. And that, of course, was the time that the tempter chose to do his work. Talk about kicking a guy when he’s down.
But I have to say, the part that has always puzzled me is that even though this event was crucial to the coming ministry of the divine Christ, the story itself lacks pizzazz. I wanted to see Jesus throw the devil off the top of the temple in Jerusalem. I wanted this jerk to be made to understand that he doesn’t wield the kind of power he thinks he does. I wanted to see Satan turned into a loaf of bread.
But that’s not how it played out. “Since you are the son of God.” The tempter said. “then you can end this nonsense and feed yourself. Since you are the son of God. Why you can, make death defying leaps Without getting a scratch. And since you are the son of God.” if you were to bow down and worship me You can take possession of the whole enchilada. everything you see will be under your control: all the kingdoms of the world and all their glory.”
but for each proposition, Jesus quoted scripture to make it clear where he stood. at that moment, it was clear that Jesus not only knew the word of God, he lived it. Even though he was stuck in this mortal body and was hot and hungry and miserable, nothing could cause him to turn away From God the Father.
But really. this doesn’t come as much of a surprise now, does it? With what we think about and know of Jesus Christ, None of us can believe for a second that he might fall for any of the tempters tricks. And that’s what has always puzzled me about this passage. Does Matthew share this story simply to demonstrate The righteousness of Christ? Well yes, there is that.
But the real lesson to be learned, I believe: the real take away from the story of the temptation of Christ Lies is its vivid description of what temptation looks like and the tools that our faith provide to avoid it.
“Since you are the son of God.” – Did you notice that every proposition the devil proposed began with these words. Some translations print it to say, “if you are the son of God,” Which is a bit of a slap, but the end result is the same. think of it as something like, “Since you are the son of God, what can I do to get you in a new car today?” I have long since learned to hang on to my checkbook whenever someone says, “You look like a smart young man.” All in all, like I said, this is the tale of how temptation works.
So how about us? As people of faith. Are we free of all the trappings and distractions That might separate us from the love of God? Well, that question answers itself. “Since you are a Christian,” we might hear, “how can you justify a loving God who allows so much suffering in the world? And since you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ, how can you continue to support the church that has caused so much damage in our world?”
I read a meme the other day that stated simply. “With organized religion we say: “I Really messed up. dad is gonna kill me.” But with the gospel, we say. “I really messed up, I better call dad.” there will always be those who’s strive to tempt us with an angry, punishing God; one who lays in wait for the moment when we mess up. and make no mistake, this theology how’s a certain appeal. those who follow a vengeful God find it easy, and even enjoyable, to judge, to belittle, and to exclude anyone who doesn’t play by their rules.
It was Bishop Gene Robinson, One of the first gay bishops elected into the Episcopal Church, that once wrote, ““It’s funny isn’t it? That you can preach a judgmental and vengeful and angry God and nobody will mind. But you start preaching a God that is too accepting, too loving, too forgiving, too merciful, too kind… And you are in trouble.”
So yes, the temptation to preach an angry and vengeful God will always be there. It’s easy and it gets results. But we are beloved children of God And as followers of Christ, Our help and our joy comes from a gospel of love and forgiveness and compassion. This is who we are and this is who we have been called to be.
So let me ask you: what do you suppose Jesus was doing During those 40 days in the wilderness? Was he wandering around aimlessly looking for something to eat, cursing his bad luck? Or did he spend it in prayer looking to discern his place and looking to discern what God was calling him to do. I find it telling that the temptations Presented to Jesus in his sorry state were all designed to disrupt his sense of self; his sense of calling. But through his love of the gospel and his understanding of the word of God, Resistance was a piece of cake. Christ didn’t act because he was afraid of breaking the rules; No, Jesus Was able to rise above his sorry state Because of the awesome love of our God.
In the 32nd Psalm, David Touches upon What it means to have a loving heart of obedience God’s word. And through this period of lent if we find ourselves tempted to judge And call upon an angry God, Maybe these words of David will bring us back to the gospel message of love and forgiveness and yes, joy- let’s not forget about Joy.
8 Let me give you some good advice;
I’m looking you in the eye
and giving it to you straight:
9 “Don’t be ornery like a horse or mule
that needs bit and bridle
to stay on track.”
10 God-defiers are always in trouble;
God-affirmers find themselves loved
every time they turn around.
11 Celebrate God.
All you honest hearts, raise the roof!
This is, after all. who we are.
and this is who we are called to be.
Amen and Shalom