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Lent 1C Sermon
Luke 4: 1-13
10, 2019


Sermon Archives


Luke 4:1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.” ’
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written,
“Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.” ’
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,
“He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you”,
“On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’
Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’ When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; Amen.

Okay, before you came to worship, who knew that we were going to hear the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness this morning? If you receive my weekly update you may have already heard me say something about it, and if you attended our Bible study last Tuesday you knew, so that doesn’t count. But if you are a person who has been a regular church-goer, and has paid attention to how things work, you may remember that every single year on the first Sunday of Lent, we are reminded of what happened to Jesus just after he was baptized by John in the Jordan. And every third year we hear it from Luke’s gospel, where the Holy Spirit seems to be calling all the shots! We are told that Jesus is full of the Holy Spirit, and that he was led by the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Yes, immediately after Jesus was baptized, and came up out of the water to a voice proclaiming him God’s Son, the Spirit either led him or pushed him into the wilderness to be faced with God’s adversary who challenged him on just what it meant to be the Son of God. “If you are the son of God … turn these stones to bread … worship me … jump off this pinnacle.” Jesus stands his ground, defiantly proving that there is no compromise with God – he is invading the Devil’s realm and there will be no shortcuts to accomplishing this mission. We admire Jesus, and yet we know that with the words, “… he departed from him until an opportune time,” we will see him again later in the story.

So once again you hear this account of Jesus’ temptations. Do you ever get tired of hearing it? Do you ever get tired of the liturgy that we share in worship? Even though we may change the wording a little bit to keep things fresh, or put aside certain parts of the worship like the Hymn of Praise and bring back the Kyrie because of the mood of Lent, in general, you hear many of the same words here every single Sunday – and you hear the same stories from the Bible on the same liturgical days. Do you ever wonder why? Well, quite simply, it is because we are people of the story – the story of Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection. This story is important to who we are because it reminds us of whose we are – we are children of the loving God who became flesh in Jesus Christ. So, hearing the stories of his life, we connect ourselves with them just as if we are there ourselves.

In our first reading we heard the story of how Moses instructed the people of God to give thanks for the harvest. Every year each farmer was to take a basket of their produce, bring it to the altar and say the same thing: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor …” and with that, the story is recounted. They were people of a story – the story of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses and the rest. Every year they were to recall the story of settling in Egypt, being enslaved, rescued by God and brought to a land flowing with milk and honey. Every year it was shared in a way that invited the people to put themselves into the story: “the Egyptians treated US harshly … afflicted US … WE cried to the Lord, the Lord heard OUR voice.” This God of grace and mercy has continued to do for them just what was done for their ancestors, and it is vital for them to remember the story of which they are part.

Maybe some of these people got tired of hearing this story year after year as they brought their gifts to the altar, but it was vital for it to be told and remembered because as they lived in this land, or whatever land they were or are living, they are called to trust that God will continue to rescue, deliver, lead and provide … especially during those wilderness times! And what was done with those offerings brought to the altar? A party was thrown for those who were like their ancestor, the wandering Aramean, Jacob! God was calling them to remember those who don’t own land, who may not be able to provide their own food or necessities of life for themselves. They are to celebrate with a banquet for those who do not have enough. God promises an ample bounty for all, and God calls them as people of the story to share generously so that all may experience the bounty promised.

In the same way we are also people of the story of Jesus. And, like it or not, every year on the first Sunday of Lent we remember the account of Jesus in the wilderness for 40 days to be tempted by the devil. We really don’t do this in order to learn something from Jesus about how to stand up to the devil in our own temptations. We do it because of the promise that it tells again and again every time we hear it. We do it because we know that the time in the wilderness, while it may seem a long and endless road, will eventually come to am end, and just as God accompanies us on this journey of penitence and reflection, God will also grant joy and new life at its conclusion. We do it because we are people of this story, who have been doing this for thousands of years!

But there is one more, very important reason that we do it. And that is because the forces that defy God’s love and grace – that tempted Jesus away from his mission – are still at work, tempting us away from our faith and trust in the grace of God. More than anything, the devil tempted Jesus away from being a person of the story of God invading our world with pure, unadulterated love. He was tempted away from the story of fulfilling his mission to be with the sick, poor, sinful people that were lost and left out; he was tempted away from the story of being a servant king, worshiping only God and not taking any shortcuts to glory. He was tempted away from the story of the cross and empty tomb. We are often tempted away from this story as well by voices we encounter around us today. Being sinful human beings, we often allow ourselves to be led away from that story. And so, it is important that every single year on this day, we return to the story that will set the stage for this Lenten season, so that when we encounter the voices of other stories in our lives, we have the witness of Jesus to bring us back to THE story which defines us. May our Lenten journeys be filled with the story that defines us – of the servant king, Jesus, who lived and died and rose again for all of us, so that our faith may be strengthened, and we may experience the joy of resurrected life with him. Amen.