Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lead us not into temptation. . .

Sermon for Lent 1B, preached on Sunday, February 22, 2015.

    We pray over and over again, “Lead us not into temptation.” Who wants to be tempted with sin and evil?  But God is not our tempter, says the Scripture.  We have trouble believing it.  Sin has rooted in us the idea that God is out to get us and that He sets traps to try and trip us up – that we are earnest people just trying to be good and God is luring us into being bad. What could be further from the truth!
    We don’t need God to lead us into temptation. We find that all by ourselves.  We are not tempted by God but tempted as people in but not of the world.  We were born into temptation and we live in a world filled with temptation.  Even good things become our temptation and we abuse the good all the time.
    We find temptation all by ourselves without any help but God did thrust Jesus into temptation.  God does not tempt us but Mark tells us that the Spirit literally drove Jesus right from His baptism into the desolation of the wilderness and into the waiting arms of the devil.  Jesus must undo what was done in Eden.
    We face temptation because we are sinful people living in a sinful world but Jesus endured temptation  not as a sinner but as the Sinless One to redeem sinners.  The Lord of creation who spoke and all things came to be is now weak, hungry, and a vulnerable target for the allure of the devil. The Lord of truth is tempted to trade piety for desire, a common barter for us. 
    The Lord of all good is asked to do evil as a means to an end, getting back the sinners whom the devil has in his pocket simply by giving up a little worship to the prince of lies and darkness.  It seems an easy trade and every one of us would have made the exchange to avoid the pain and suffering of the cross - not Jesus.
    Jesus resists not as example to us so that we can do what He did but as the One who must undo what Adam and Eve did. It is a dangerous idea to make Jesus the coach who tries to get us to believe we can and then to do what He does. Jesus is tempted to undo the fruits of temptation to which Adam and Eve succumbed. Our first parents chose temptation and we have suffered from their choice since the beginning.  Jesus chooses righteousness so that His obedience can undo the disobedience of Adam and His righteousness be the covering for all those born in sin because of Adam and Eve's temptation and fall.
    The Lord’s obedience becomes our own – and we who are disobedient are counted with Christ’s perfect obedience simply by the obedience of faith that trusts in what He has done.  The Lord is faithful and now we unfaithful are declared faithful in Christ whose “yes” to God and “no” to Satan counts for us.
    The Lord trusts for you and me, for the skeptics and doubters who are sure God is out to get us.  The Lord’s perfect trust in the will of His Father in heaven wins the day – for you and for me.  We are declared righteous simply by believing in Jesus Christ.  If God tests anything it is our faith, like Abraham found when asked to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Isaac was always key to the Lord's plan of salvation and the Lord never intended to take his life but Abraham's faith in God's plan was key.When Abraham found God can be trusted and that trust becomes our delight and our joy, laid down a legacy for all those whose faith will be credited as righteousness.  Christ suffers so that you and I might be counted holy by faith.
    We look at this all wrong.  Jesus did not go into the wilderness of temptation to show us the secret way to undoing temptation.  He is there to undo Eden.  Where Adam and Eve ate and sinned, Jesus fasts and feeds.  Where Adam and Eve trusted in the lies of Satan, Jesus is the truth to untie the knots of Satan’s lies that hold us.  Where Adam and Eve surrendered their souls and their children for a fake glory and a false image of freedom, Jesus surrenders His freedom and glory to rescue Adam and Eve and all their children – right down to you and me.  That is what happens in the few short sentences that St. Mark devotes to Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.
    Let me say one thing more.  Satan always breaks his tools when he is finished with them.  The perfect love of Adam and Eve was marred by impure desire and love required constant labor just like life.  Their sons became mortal enemies and conflict has tested every home since.  The ground refused to give up its bounty without the hardest work and now our backs ache and our minds are weary.  And the grave claimed our worn and tied bodies before we are ready to let go of them.  Satan always breaks his tools when he is finished with them.  Temptation is not some small thing but the path of sin and despair.
    Satan breaks his tools but not Jesus.  Jesus reclaims, restores, and renews us by the grace of forgiveness so that even when temptation snares us Christ overcomes it still.  Yes, we benefit from fasting, prayer, and the knowledge of God’s Word.  Remember that on Ash Wednesday Jesus did not say IF you fast but WHEN.  Yet none of us ever stands where Adam and Even or Jesus stood.  God does not tempt us and He takes no joy in our trials.  But He thrust Jesus into the hard place for us to undo what temptation had done to Adam and Eve and us.  Because Christ stood firm, we stand upright in Him. The grace of forgiveness enables us to stand even when we fall.  Amen.

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