Sunday Service 6th March
Welcome to our reflection for 6th March.
We have just started to move into Lent, the time of preparation for Easter.
In Lent we start to follow Christ’s journey to the cross and resurrection, seeking ourselves to go on a journey of faith where we might see why Christ would do that for us and find our own spiritual path.
Today we look at temptations that Jesus had to face at the start of his ministry and how he had to reflect on what kind of leader he was going to be, and we will start to reflect on the temptations we face are similar, but we will look at that after Elaine leads us in our prayers and reading for today.
‘Jesus returned from the Jordan full of the Holy Spirit and was led by the Spirit into the desert, where he was tempted by the Devil for forty days.’
So we start Lent, our time of preparation for Easter; a time of reflection.
And we start with temptation; initially the temptation of Christ but it leads us onto thinking about our own temptations.
The background that Luke gives us is very clear.
Jesus has just been baptised and it has initiated a new path in his life.
His roll of looking after his mother and their family is finished, now he is to be a messenger of God, telling and showing people that they are called by God to follow a path of discipleship.
Luke, then immediately after that baptism, puts in this ancestral tree of Jesus, indicating to everyone the feeling that this had been God’s plan since the beginning of time.
Everything was in place.
And then something weird happens.
Instead of starting that amazing ministry, a ministry that time itself has been waiting for, a ministry that Jesus has waited all his life to start,
instead of healing people and preaching to people, instead of storming the temple and declaring his message... everything stops.
And the Spirit leads Jesus into the desert.
And there Jesus is tempted by the Devil.
What is that all about?
I think it is a valuable lesson that we have forgotten in our western world.
We have a terrible habit of judging success and failure on results. So we strive for results.
Often when we are planning things we talk of SMART objectives or SMART goals.
It stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.
I am sure that when the Church of Scotland sat down with the new chief executive and decided to reform all three branches of the church at the same time that they had SMART goals to achieve this.
Businesses do this all the time, management groups do it all the time, athletes and sports teams use these things all the time.
And you know what; I think the Devil was trying to get Jesus to use them as well.
‘Here we are Jesus.
Let’s look at what you want to achieve.
Helping people. Great I can help you. If you turn all these stones into bread then you can quickly and efficiently help so many people.
You will need power and wealth to influence people, and you want to influence the influencers. You don’t want those world leaders’ egos’s running the world do you? All they will do is cause wars and kill innocents.
I can give you all the power and wealth you need to get things moving quickly. The sooner you are in charge the less people will die in wars.
And belief, if people don’t believe you then they will never follow the path you have for them. Just jump off the temple, let them see who you truly are, then they will have no choice but to believe, and the more people that believe, the sooner the world will be like heaven on earth.’
Why didn’t Jesus take the easy options?
Because it wasn’t about goals, it was about relationship, and there are no shortcuts to relationship.
All the responses that Jesus gives to counteract the Devil are responses that point to relationship with God.
Humanity cannot live by bread alone, but by the word of God, in listening to God’s path for us which is more than just serving our basic needs.
Life is not about gaining more power, life is about bonding with God, worshiping him, serving him; which means we need to be part of a community and not just think of ourselves.
It’s not about achieving the spectacular, about achieving our own goals and finding our place in history books; it is not about testing God, it is about trusting God.
And I don’t think that has changed.
We have the temptation just to fulfil our own needs, in our own way.
We have the temptation to seek influence and wealth thinking that that will give us power over what happens to us.
We have the temptation to seek significance.
Here’s the thing, the temptation isn’t wrong.
We do have needs, we do have a longing for influence, we do have a longing for significance...there is nothing wrong in that, that is what it means to be human.
The choice we have is the same two choices that Jesus is given.
Are we going to grab these things for our own means?
Take them and use them as we see fit?
Take them at the expense of others?
Or are we going to see our needs, our influence, our significance in our relationship with God, using what we are given for the good of all?
In the end it is about trust.
Are we going to trust our lives in servanthood of God, or are we going to try to live our life under our own control?
That is a tough choice.
Especially with what is going on in the world, in the church right now..
A perfect example just now is Putin.
Here is someone with more than enough money, power, and influence to do whatever he wants.
And yet in his striving to keep his empire safe, his powerbase safe, he is risking the potential of a world war.
Often, on a far smaller scale, we do the exact same thing.
We try to control our world so that it is safe, and in doing so clash with everyone else who is trying to do the same thing, and in the process often undermining the feelings of assurance we are seeking.
Jesus has given us another example.
Living a life trusting his Father;
that God will help him in his sorrows and in his conflicts with others,
that God will help him with his daily needs and his spiritual needs.
So with all that assurance, Jesus is then free to be completely open and honest and helpful to others,
to live a life with total and complete significance,
because his significance is found in his relationship with his Father and that is completely safe.
One final warning, or maybe assurance, hard to tell which it is.
It is that little phrase it the end of this passage...
‘When the Devil was finished tenting Jesus in every way, he left him for a while.’
This is a battle Jesus found throughout his life; to either trust his Father or try to control life on his own.
This will be a battle we face every day.
It’s scary to know because it means we will probably fail a lot of the time, just not having enough faith and trying to control others or ourselves, being a bit greedy or selfish or indifferent to others.
But, it also means that when we fail, we can see it and recognise what we have done, decide that it didn’t help us and change our ways, learn from our mistakes and start again, make a new choice to trust God again.
The past is the past, today is the day of choice; will we trust God now, in this moment, moving forward with him, seeking the good of any that God puts in our path?
Or will we seek only what we think is best for us? Trust in our own instincts, believe that the only life of value is our own?
Which will it be?
The Devil tempted your Son to turn stones into bread to feed the hungry...and you were not against that, for Jesus did feed thousands with five loaves and two fish.
The Devil did offer influence with the leaders of the world...and you were not against that, for the movement that your Son created would outlast every empire that existed.
The devil told your Son to risk his life in the Temple...and you were not against that, because your Son would threaten the rituals and customs of the Temple and so put his life at risk.
You were not against the objectives of the temptations, the objectives were not the temptations. The temptation was the heart with which they were achieved.
Would Jesus grab power to control the destinies of others, or would he seek always to have a heart of servanthood.
Not my will, but your will be done.
Father, help us, for our temptations are exactly the same. We seek to control our wee world, look after our own interests first, be wary of the needs of others.
Put our lives first, then seek your opinion.
Instead may we learn to trust in your path for us, no matter where it may lead, no matter how hard it may be.
May we trust because we realise that our life with you, is a life eternal, a life of knowing we are loved beyond measure, and that is the greatest treasure we could have.
May we dedicate our life to living in that love.