The Gospel: Matthew 4:1-11
Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,
‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that you have inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation, and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: Our readings this morning are a perfect follow-up on my message from last week. We are once again looking at glory and power, and the desire for it, in people's lives. This week, of course, the focus is on how people deal with or respond to the opportunity of glory and power.
I want to briefly say something I didn't get a chance to say last week. Many of us would most probably look at the message from last week and again this week and say something like: "well that doesn't really apply to me, because I am not a person of importance and I don't have all that power associated with glory."
Sometimes feeling like you have no power or glory can create its own need to seek whatever glory we can claim for ourselves. Or to exercise whatever power we can in our lives, or to exercise whatever power we can in the lives of those around us.
Sometimes when you feel like people don't notice you, or they aren't taking any notice of you, you seek your own glory, or you seek to exercise your own power.
This becomes its own destructive pathway in our relationships and in our interactions with those around us. In an effort to be noticed or recognized, we can exercise power that is harmful and can be destructive or even self-destructive. I am sure we all know people like this in our families or among our friends.
With that said I want to come back to the readings for today. It seems to me that the common theme or word in the readings this morning is testing. As I said earlier we are looking at glory and power, and the desire for it, in people's lives. The readings this morning draw our focus to how people deal with or respond to the opportunity of glory and power. How do they respond when tested?
Testing is common to us all. Adam was tested in the garden, and Jesus was tested in the wilderness. You and I are tested every day. Testing is common to humankind. We are all tested every day.
I would imagine that if you asked most people how they were doing with their testing today most of us would reply with something along the lines of: "not as well as I would like to," or perhaps on a bad day: "you mean how am I doing with my failing." "I am getting a passing grade in failing."
Perhaps it is not quite that bad. But we certainly know how easily we are drawn to things that have the potential to distract us. Can we as Christians agree that we are better off when we are in a relationship with an eternal being we call God? That our lives, and the lives of those around us, are better when we place that eternal being God at the center of our lives. But, we can often be distracted and we can seek to place ourselves or other things in that central place.
The story of Adam and Eve, in the Book of Genesis, this morning illustrates this powerfully. Now, there are most probably those here this morning who will discount the story of Adam and Eve as Jewish folklore. A story made up long after to explain the unexplainable of humankind's relationship with an eternal being designated as God. That being said the essence, or the heart, of the story, still carries some eternal truth for us all. Human beings can be drawn to things that we, feel like we are lacking, in our lives.
I don't know about you, but, I certainly identify with Adam and Eve. Both in my failure to follow instructions but also in my willingness to rationalize why it was OK for me to make the choice I did.
Adam particularly gets a passing grade in failing. When he is tested he falls right into failure mode and then into crisis management. Adam sees an opportunity for glory and power and he takes it.
This method of dealing with distractions is the basis of the words Paul writes to the Romans.
"Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned" Romans 5: 12 NRSV
We might say that because one human being fell, for the temptation of glory and power, that opened the door for all who followed him to go down the same path, generation after generation.
But Paul draws our attention to an eternal truth that we all need to hear:
"If, because of the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous." Romans 5: 17-19
What Paul is saying here and we can see illustrated for us in the Gospel of Matthew this morning is that Jesus is not distracted, by the offer of glory and power, from his purpose and his calling. Then thankfully and wondrously he makes it possible for all to follow him down that same path, generation after generation.
In fact, as we talked about last week, he turns, that glory and power, to an entirely different purpose. He uses it to prepare for his ultimate sacrifice. Then through that sacrifice and his resurrection, he makes it possible for us to find peace and purpose in our own lives.
The testing and challenges, of glory and power, will still be evident in our lives, but with renewed hearts and minds we can seek after his example.
In the words from the Book of Common Prayer Morning Prayer Rite II on page 99
A Collect for Fridays
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bishops & Father Mike