A Tempting Offer
"A Tempting Offer"
A sermon preached by the Minister Rev Andrew Sails
“If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread” (Lk 4:3)
I wonder how long it took the Pope to decide to resign? We can imagine the prayer and wrestling which must have preceded his announcement -
But it isn’t just Popes who have these choices to make
Lent is the particular time when we are all specially challenged to seek God’s guidance for our life – and in doing that we are following Christ’s footsteps. His 40 days in the wilderness was his time of wrestling with himself and God sort out in his mind what God wanted of him and what sort of ministry he was called to.
Those of you like me who have a taste for Scandinavian noir TV
So Satan tempts Jesus – why not jump from the temple, why not turn stones into bread? You’d be there as a national hero just like that!
But the temptation – and temptation it is – is to gain power and influence at the cost of losing your integrity, of ignoring the ultimate wellbeing of others, of failing to do God’s will, at the cost of one’s soul.
The PR promises fillet steak, but inside the package it isn’t even past its sell by date horse burger.
Some of course give in to the temptation to gain power and prestige in all the wrong ways – think of Lance Armstrong finding fame and fortune, but only via a Faustian deal with drugs and deceit which finally undid him.
Lent is a time to review our lives, and the society in which we live –
On Ash Wednesday this week a vicar from the north east took a box of penitential Ash Wednesday ash and poured it over the local branch of Starbucks. The Christian environmental group Operation Noah asked people to use Lent to repent our complicity in climate change.
As individuals and as a society we need to reflect and repent.
A strange week this – on Ash Wednesday everyone giving up chocolates.
Pete Pillinger posted a picture on Facebook this week of the original St Valentine – a rather dour bearded 4th Century martyr. The caption read: “I was beaten with clubs, beheaded, buried under the cover of darkness, disinterred by my followers, & you celebrate my martyrdom by sending chocolates”.
Are we called to stones or bread, suffering or chocolate, wilderness or feast??
Well, the Covenant service reminds us “..Christ has many services to be done. Some are easy, others are difficult. Some bring honour, others bring reproach. Some are suitable to our natural inclinations and temporal interests, others are contrary to both... Yet the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ, who strengthens us.”
Sometimes our call is to a ministry of rich mutuality and sharing of chocolate – other times we may be called to a ministry of hunger or even martyrdom.
On 17 Feb 1977 Janani Luwum, Archbishop of Uganda and outspoken critic of Idi Amin was killed whilst under arrest and in government custody . The government announced that he had been in a fatal car crash. When his body was returned to his family, it was found to be riddled with bullets – a modern St Valentine, murdered for his faith.
So on Feb 17 we give thanks for his life, his death, his faithfulness,
And what about us – here we are at the start of Lent – called to reflect on our calling. Are we called to turn stones into bread?
If we just want to misappropriate God’s power to give us an easy life – miraculous food when we are feeling peckish – then the answer is No.
But if the bread is not for our glory but to aid the suffering and needy, then the answer is yes – we should turn stones into bread.
Once upon a time a man came to the Church and asked for bread.
We can all turn stones into bread – we can all work miracles – it is really quite straightforward –
Take explosive to a quarry – blast the stone – sell it to builders for houses – use the money to buy a field of corn – harvest and mill the corn – use the flour to bake bread…. OK, we may not do the whole cycle ourselves – but you take the point – as part of the economic community we along with others can turn rocks into bread for the hungry.
In the power of the Spirit, all who follow God’s call can be miracle workers!
Thanks Naa for sharing your enthusiasm for the work of Meet Kate.
One of the key aspects of Meet Kate is to respect and honour the integrity and worth of those with whom they work – the object is not to label recipients as dependent charity cases, but to help them become independent individuals able to care for themselves. We give bread to build up the recipient, not to make ourselves feel good about it.
There are two kinds of bread – physical and spiritual
Man shall not live by bread alone - but note this doesn’t say that he doesn’t need ordinary bread.
In Little Dorrit, Arthur Clenham recalls his childhood, when, “like a military deserter, he was marched to chapel by a picquet of teachers three times a day, morally handcuffed to another boy; and when he would willingly have bartered two meals of indigestible sermon for another ounce or two of inferior mutton at his scanty dinner in the flesh”
Or think of the Magdalen Laundries – plenty of prayers on offer but scant helpings of respect, freedom, autonomy or love for the residents.
We do our brothers and sisters a disservice if we offer only spiritual food
I remember reading of a RC priest in central Africa
---For ourselves and others this Lent we need to learn that
In the words of the Hindu poem: If you have 2 pieces of bread, Give one to the poor, Sell the other to buy hyacinths to feed your soul.
It has been said that bread only becomes the bread of life when it is shared. Whilst it remains locked in my freezer or cupboard for my private consumption it is not life giving it is death dealing – for others starve whilst it sits there.
So this Lent let us follow our Lord into the wilderness and reflect on what he would have us do. For ourselves, let us seek neither glory nor wealth.