Readings are here
The readings today revolve around the theme of what does it mean to be saved (made whole) and how are we tempted away from wholeness.
Deuteronomy speaks of worship and how worship is a recognition that all things come from God. As the people are freed from slavery in Egypt and come into a land that will be their own, initially they are grateful for this gift. As they work the land, raise crops and earn their living to support their families - it is easy to begin to think it is their own doing. It is ours, we did it becomes the voice they hear rather than recognizing that much of what they have is from their place of privilege. Unless one is healthy and able it is hard to work the fields, if one has lost one's family he or she is condemned to the margins - forced to beg. The writer of Deuteronomy writes to remind the people that life is a gift and to give thanks to God for it, not become greedy and selfish and self satisfied.
The Psalmist speaks of trusting God and God alone. This is the psalm that Luke says the devil uses to try to get Jesus to jump off the pinnacle of the temple. It is a song of trust that we are always in the hands of God no matter what our circumstances not a test for God to do things as we think. Once again the readings speak of knowing who we are in relationship to God -we are creature not creator.
Paul's letter to the Romans tells us that shame comes from being separated from God. Paul's world was intensely focussed on honor and shame - worrying constantly about loss of face and maintaining honor. It was and is sometimes for us so crippling that we cannot risk doing things unless we have assessed all the factors. We become paralyzed by what others will think, social loss, and sometimes the fear of death. Paul assures us that God will be with us through these times and give us the courage to do the thing that brings healing to ourselves and our world.
The Gospel gives us the stories of how temptation comes to us and how Jesus shows us how to resist. Jesus has just been baptized by John in the Jordan and heard the glorious words of "beloved son." In this Gospel he is led into the wilderness, in others he is driven into the wilderness. Either way, it is often the case that after we experience new insight or a spiritual high we have to go away and think about it for awhile. When we are new to things we are somewhat shaky on what it all means for us.
This gospel reminds me of the Let's Make a Deal TV show. The devil says choose door number 1 or door number 2 or door number 2 (thanks to Harvey Mozolak for the imagery) Number 1 is the ability to turn stones into bread. Why would Jesus refuse this ability to feed the world? Wouldn't everyone come to faith in God if they received bread in this miraculous way? The truth is we don't need to have this done for us. We can feed the world with now if we let go of hoarding and greed. The hunger that cannot be fed is the hunger in our hearts for relationships to God and to one another. This starvation prevents us from seeing beyond ourselves to the other.
So the devil moves on to door number 2. Suddenly Jesus sees all the kingdoms of the world if only he separates from God - he is promised authority everyone. This would be good wouldn't it? Make everyone do the right thing? But that is not God's way - God's way is freedom. Freedom to choose right and wrong. God does not want automatons - God wants people coming to wholeness by choice not force. Separating from God leaves one in chains, lost and living in a world that says more is bettter and whover dies with the most toys wins. Jesus tells of the first being last and the last being first - that it is the servant who takes first place.
Finally the devil tries door number 3 - do the spectacular - jump off the roof of the temple - people will follow you if they see that. He even uses quotes from scripture to prove his idea. But Jesus turns from this to show that even the Bible can be used to support evil ends.
It turns out that Jesus does not play Let's Make a Deal - instead we learn as he lives into the fullness of his life, death and resurrection - he does not choose a door but becomes THE Door - the way to eternal life. Following Jesus reveals LIFE in capital letters, a life of abundance, of love, of service.
Today we celebrate the campaign to end extreme poverty and hunger in our lifetime, to educate all children, to empower women to live into their full humanity, to reduce child mortality, to improve the health of mothers, to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, to ensure that the earth is developed in a sustainable way, and to create global partnerships.
These things can be done - not by thinking WE are the answer but by participating with God in caring for all people and the creation, by remembering where all our gifts come from and resisting the temptations that separate us from ourselves, our neighbors and God. AMEN