Texts: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13
Our texts for today serve as part of the foundation for the season of the Christian year, referred to as Lent , that we have just begun. During Lent we Christians take on additional disciplines of prayer and fasting, modeled after Jesus’ 40 day sojourn in the desert as described in Luke 4:1-13.
There are many ways to hear this text of temptations. In it we hear Jesus’ incredible capacity to resist. We see in it the guile and trickery of the devil. We marvel at the discipline of a forty day fast, taken in a harsh desert environment. We are left to ponder what bread is required for life, where our heart’s true loyalties lie, and to whom we turn for our protection.
A common interpretation of this passage will focus on our need as Christians to be more like Jesus. We remind ourselves of the discipline required to resist the temptations that we face on a daily basis. We ponder the forces of evil that lure the world away from the Yahweh way. We affirm the faithfulness Jesus demonstrated, and seek to be even somewhat as sure. We acknowledge the trusting nature of God to allow his son to face such a challenge.
There is at least one more way that we might hear this text, though. That way is from the perspective of a Christian and an evangelist. So if you do not consider yourself a Christian, you are welcome to read on, but know that this message is primarily for those of us who do claim Christ as Lord and Savior. If you are a Christian, brace yourself; this may not feel too good.
The question that arose for me as I was again reading this text was, “In this wilderness drama, am I more like Jesus or more like the devil?” At a fundamental level, the answer is neither, of course, because I have nothing remotely close to the power that each of them possesses. However, on a more practical level, the wilderness temptations challenge me to recognize who I more closely resemble. I like to think that the answer is Jesus, that the fasting, prayer, and resistance of Jesus are the de facto modus operandi for my daily living. But, true to the nature of the devil, this journey is a slippery slope.
During this Lenten season of fasting, praying, and, yes, repentance, I wonder if we Christians might do well to test our evangelism against the solicitations of the devil. When we tell the stories of Jesus, which bread are we promising? When we gather and engage in worship, what Gods are we really lifting up? When we recount the activity of the Holy Spirit, which powers are we invoking?
May our Lenten prayer, fasting and repentance lead to a witness that is covered as in the words of the Psalmist for today, “My refuge and my fortress; my God in whom I trust.”
Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be
tempted by Satan; Come quickly to help us who are assaulted
by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of
each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through
Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(first Sunday of Lent collect from the (online) Book of Common Prayer)
“And I will raise you up” Michael Joncas, New Dawn Music (1979)
“I am leaning on the Lord” African-American Spiritual
“Mighty to Save” Rodney Clawson