So what does it mean to be tempted by the devil??
Some people seem to have a very literal idea of
what is going on here –
a guy with horns and a tail, a sort of travelling salesman
hawking round a suitcase full of tempting sins -
“Here you are sir - how about a nice bit of
selling like hot cakes it is sir
“Or what about a job lot of sloth -
to be honest sir I’ve got half a warehouse full of sloth - I just can’t shift it -
you can have it at a knockdown price -
“Or here what about a bit of envy sir - very hard
to come by this item, they all want it –
everyone’s into it this year sir, why not get a bit yourself?”
experience in the wilderness is much more subtle than this.
Yes there is a battle going on between good and evil,
but it is in Jesus head, as he wrestles not with particular sins
but with the overall nature of his life and ministry.
What does it mean to be called by God, and what is his ministry meant to be like?
What should he do when he gets back to Capernaum?
Lent is traditionally a time when we not only remember
Jesus’ time in the wilderness,
but as best we can share in it -
We too are called to wrestle with who we are,
what God is calling us to do, what our ministry is meant to be.
Maybe at this
very moment we can ask ourselves these questions:
What has God put
me on earth for?
(incidentally this is no time for false modesty saying God cannot do anything with me –
that is much too easy a cop out –
God has a job for all of us, and it is escapism not humility to say otherwise)
What things is
he waiting for me to achieve in the next 3yrs?
(the temptation here is that we pick things within our comfort zone,
things we want to do, and pretend that these are God’s wishes when really they are ours)
does he want me to use to achieve my aims?
(This is maybe the most difficult area –
where we are tempted to justify very dubious activities
on the grounds that they are means to a noble end).
How many selfish wars of aggrandizement have been
allegedly for the liberation of other conveniently placed victims?
Today we have placed the first symbol beneath
the Lent Cross -
the chalice reminds us of the last supper,
but it also reminds us how Christ wrestled in Gethsemane
with the shape and nature of his mission –
I wonder if he was still tempted to take the easy glamorous and painless route,
does he still toy with the idea of a military victory or miraculous portents from the sky?
Certainly he says “Lord take this cup from me” –
but then he sees the right way – “Not my will but thy will O Lord be done”
must have been very hungry in the desert.
We can understand in the heat of the midday sun,
he sees the rocks shimmering about him. And he thinks –
“If I am God’s appointed why do I need to fast here – why not turn these stones to bread?
Indeed wouldn’t that be a good way of doing my ministry –
feed everyone with miraculous loaves?
So why did Jesus not turn the stones to bread?
Maybe because Christ saw the subtle danger
of getting something he wanted (a square meal) whilst pretending to do God’s will
Maybe because he knew that wasn’t God’s way to save
the world –
to bribe and wow them with material goodies.
That would be to fill their bellies without touching their hearts –
“Man shall not live by bread alone” he says -
True spiritual sustenance involves not only full
but also a spirit of love, compassion, sacrifice & sharing underpinning the feast.
Yes Christ was called to be the bread of life
and feed the hungers and the needs of the world –
But no, the way was not by flicking a switch
or waving the Good Fairy’s wand or Moses’ staff and turning the stones to bread –
that would not go to the heart of the problem.
Rather you carry a cross and drink a cup of suffering and get alongside those in need.
given us plenty of ways of turning stones into bread –
it is after all an every day event – complex but common place.
You know the trick?
You quarry the stone and break it up and sell it to building and road stone contractors.
That generates cash and investment which eventually reaches the farmers
who are able to buy seed corn for next year’s harvest –
and so on via the miller and the baker – and behold, bread from stone.
miracles needed – or rather it
needs a different kind of miracle –
a miracle of sharing love which makes our economic systems
and our individual transactions directed by love and compassion
so that the good things of life are indeed shared.
Work that miracle and there is no end to the number of
loaves and fishes, manna and quail which can be given to the poor -
and you can watch the desert bloom like a rose…
But to change the world, you’ve got to start with yourself
I guess we need a movie reference on Oscar day -
The devil can appear in many guises, and Meryl Streep’s Oscar nomination tonight
is for the movie “The Devil Wears Prada”.
It’s a fun piece about the fashion industry – but it is actually about the devil –
or at least about the values which guide your life –
do you choose superficial careerist glamour or love and integrity?
Will the heroine Anne Hathaway ultimately be seduced
by the values of her wonderfully demonic boss Meryl Streep?
You can’t save the world from the devil’s whiles
when you are still wearing her clothes….
What is true for individuals is also true for the Church.
Today is also Home Mission Sunday.
There are plates at the door for the work of
our Home Mission Fund of the Methodist Church
supporting new expressions of Church in difficult and challenging areas
of mission service and evangelism in this country.
Mission Sunday is also about us as Church here at the Mint -
thinking what it means to do God’s mission in this place.
And the wilderness questions are the same –
As a Church
bigger questions than we can answer just here -
but as we reflect on these things in Church Council and Annual Church meeting etc,
we should be looking for the same sort of answers that Jesus found in the wilderness –
and if as a Church we don’t discover a similar calling
to feed the people body and soul, to drink the cup of suffering and carry the cross,
and so bring love and hope into the world –
well maybe we should go back to the wilderness a little longer and think again…
Churches of course are content to gather stones and polish and revere them.
But a polished and revered stone is still a stone –
we need to find the love and the sweat to turn it into the bread of life.
On Home Mission Sunday we should be turning the
stones of this building
into the living Body of Christ – the Bread of Life.
Whatever bricks and mortar and stone we build with,
the building of the body of Christ is our key Building Scheme!
Let me draw towards a close with another movie
reference – this rather older
In the “Devil’s Advocate” Al Pacino plays a businessman called Milton who,
although very unassuming in appearance is actually immensely rich and powerful,
living in the Penthouse suite of his own New York skyscraper.
Keanu Reeves plays a brilliant young laywer Kevin Lomax. .
Milton takes up out onto the roof at the top of the skyscraper –
NY is spread out below them. “Lots of rich clients out there” says Milton.
Then he offers the young lawyer an amazing job at an immense salary.
It is a stunning offer, promising wealth, power and glamour –
The lawyer accepts – not realising that Milton is actually the devil,
that his corporation is corrupt, and that the money, the glamour and the power
will actually start to destroy all that is really worth having in his life –
the love and indeed the sanity of his wife.
took him up to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world
and said, all this shall be yours if you will but fall down and worship me….”
Whether you are atop a skyscraper looking over New
or on a mountain overlooking the world of the New Testament,
or here in Exeter –
the same road is there for us all to see winding towards the horizon.
And on the horizon the silhouette of the cross.
I hope that this Lent we will spend time in the
quiet of the wilderness
reflecting on God’s will for us –
and then like Christ before us,
emerge from our prayer and meditation
and walk the way of the cross
through the streets of the city
ORDER OF SERVICE
Sunday 25th March 2007 10.30 a.m.
1st Sunday of Lent Home Mission Sunday
Morning Worship led by Rev Andrew Sails
Organ: Psalm Prelude No 1 – Herbert Howells
(based on Psalm 34:6)
Welcome and Notices
Hymn 744 (vv.1-4) “O for a Thousand Tongues”
1. 만 입이 내게 있으면 그 입 다 가지고
내 구주 주신 은총을 늘 찬송하겠네
2. 내 은혜로신 하나님 날 도와주시고
그 크신 영광 널리펴 다 알게 하소서
3. 내 주의 귀한 이름이 날 위로하시고
이 귀에 음악같으니 참 희락되도다
4. 내 죄의 권세 깨뜨려 그 결박 푸시고
이 추한 맘을 피로써 곧 정케하셨네
The Lenten Cross
All Age Ministry – Mary Hext
Hymn 138 “Seek ye first”
16:11-18 (p. 74)
Luke 4:1-13 (p.1030)
Hymn 68 “Lead us heavenly Father lead us”
Sermon “Wilderness Choices”
Hymn 788 “Behold the Servant”
Prayer and Lord’s Prayer
Hymn 774 “Lord thy Church on earth is seeking”
Organ: Imperial March – Edward Elgar