Lenten Noonday Preaching Series
Calvary Episcopal Church
February 21, 2002
alone, all alone. After all the excitement of the baptism and John the
Baptist, he went off for forty days into the wilderness. Thats where
we get Lent--from that forty-day experience that Jesus had. All alone
he had these experiences, maybe many more, but we know of the three written
up in all the Gospels. Theyre the beginning of Lent for us, the
Temptations of Christ.
around this wilderness area (scholars tell us it was maybe sixty miles
long) and saw desolation--no trees, no grass, nothing but dry, parched,
rocky soil. He probably looked down and saw the stones, that maybe were
the size of loaves of bread, and the devil said, "Turn the stones
into bread. You could feed people." That was the first temptation.
In the second
temptation, the devil used the temple high point, which was quite a dramatic
spot, evidently. On one side was the Kidron valley, maybe a 450 foot drop.
On the other side would have been the pavement or the courtyard, maybe
a 50-foot drop. The idea was that Jesus could jump from the 50-foot top
of the temple down onto the pavement, and the angels would come and catch
him so that he did not gash his foot against the stone. This would be
such a dramatic moment that all people would follow him.
temptation was delivered from the top of a mountain: Look at the whole
world, all of the kingdoms of the earth, and you can have them. Theyre
yours. Be the Ruler, the King, the Controller of all that is.
You and I
face temptation, and its usually when we are alone, also. Being
alone has something to do with the business of seeing yourself as vulnerable,
as perhaps more susceptible. Our culture loves the individual, but the
individualistic concept breeds in us a kind of loneliness that is very
difficult. We find ourselves feeling the rush of loneliness even
crowd of people, even with friends. Its a kind of a secret despair,
even though people are around us and we have friends, and we know people
who care about us.
and the solitary life are right below the surface, whether you live alone
or not. Thats not the issue. Its that loneliness that comes
when you feel that somehow your life is all by itself very, very vulnerable.
In our culture
we dont live in tribes. We dont live in clans. Perhaps we
did a long time ago, but no, we live individual lives-- not in a family
extended, not in twelve people in one big old house--no, we live with
two, three, four or five at the most. And many of us live literally by
ourselves, and that enhances for us that aloneness that brings on the
possibility of despair and temptation. ...
dont have the help of the culture in relationship to the temptations
we face. The forty days of Lent is about dealing with the temptations,
talking about those things that we do that arent good for us, things
that dont add to our spiritual or physical health and well-being.
And many of them we dont even know about. Many of them are just
things of habit and things of the culture that we just do. Things of
group pressure. And it never occurs to us that theyre unhealthy,
or they are not good for our souls journey....
lots of things we embrace that are not healthy and good for us. Thats
what Lent is all about, isnt it? To try to analyze and see those
things that are very popular for everyone to do, and figure out which
things arent good for us. And yet, I propose that it is very, very
hard for you and me to do anything in our culture about temptation.
system, our whole way of life, our whole economic engine, this whole thing
that we love so much is motivated and driven by temptation. Thats
the bottom line. Oh, we dont call it that. We dont call it
temptation. We call it marketing, PR, advertising. What if we stopped
our ads for forty days? Wed fall apart because the essence of what
drives you and me is that thing called advertising. And, of course, advertising
is nothing but constant temptation, isnt it?
this morning. You got up and read the daily paper. And what did you see?
Page after page of ads trying to get you to be tempted to go someplace,
see a movie, do something. Go home right after church today. Turn on
television. Thirty seconds after thirty seconds of temptation to try
get you to do something. Look at the magazines on the coffee table. Page
after page of temptation, of course. Its just endless in our culture,
isnt it? ...
for you and me to really say that prayer the Lord taught us, "Lead
us not into temptation," in a culture that worships it. The reason
most of us cant fulfill the temptation is we just dont have
enough money. We run out after a while. If we had a little more, we would
buy more and go more and do more and see more. So, for you and me, to
have forty days in which we talk about temptation in a culture thats
built on it becomes very difficult.
What is Lent,
then? Alcoholics Anonymous has it right. By your willpower you are never
going to change your addiction. Its only when you let go and let
God. No other way! You cant do it by will. It doesnt work
that way. Its only when you allow the power of Gods presence,
or, as they call it, a power greater than yourself, can you resist temptation.
have an old saying that I love. They call it "centering down"--beginning
to take yourself out of the center and letting God be in the center of
your being. What Lent is really all about is a
brand new way in which
you let God be central in your life. Its a tithe of the year, about
ten percent. You take that ten percent in saying, "Im going
to let go and let God. For its only by the power of the Spirit of
the Holy God in my life that I can resist those things that are unhealthy
for me and for my life."
of the year, a time to center down. A time to let go and let God in a
culture so full of temptation that its only in the power and presence
of God that we can be released and live in the freedom of Gods love.
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