Rev. Eric R. Dillenbeck
February 17, 2013
Scripture: Luke 4:1-13
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1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 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.
3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”
5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 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. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”
9 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, 10 for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ 11 and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
The Word of the Lord Thanks be to God
“Tempted in the Wilderness”
One of my favorite television shows of all time has to be the Vicar of Dibley. It was a BBC sitcom, that aired here on PBS, about a Vicar, or priest, who pastored a small church in a rural village in England. It was hilarious for so many reasons.
One episode of this great show came back to me after Missy and I decided to focus on Fairmount’s stained glass windows for the season of Lent. In this episode a great storm wreaked havoc on the village causing a branch fall through the church’s stained glass window. When Geraldine, the Vicar, discovered the broken window she called together the parish council to discuss what to do. They immediately decided to rebuild it exactly as it was before.
The problem was no one could decide what story the window depicted. Some said it was the story of Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai with the 10 Commandments, others said it was the Feeding of the 5000 and other’s said it was the story of Noah’s Arc. I felt like I could have been part of that episode. I have been here for 4 ½ years and sitting in my office talking about this Lenten theme, I realized I had no idea what our windows looked like. Thank goodness for Fran Bayliss who took the time to walk us through our windows. It appears we are going to be living our stained glass
Stained Glass. It is almost everywhere now a-days. It can be found in churches of all types; it can be found in hip boutiques and reclaimed pieces can be found for sale in flea markets; and increasingly ornate pieces are being installed in individual homes. This wasn’t always the case. For over 1000 years the term “stained glass” referred almost exclusively to windows found in churches and other significant buildings. But colored glass has been produced since ancient times. Both the Egyptians and the Romans excelled at the manufacture of small colored glass objects and some churches even had a small amount of stained glass windows, probably to keep sleepy teenagers from falling out of the windows.
But the Stained Glass window, as an art form, reached its height in the Middle Ages when churches used the windows to tell the stories of scripture, to spread the Gospel message to the illiterate masses. At the Reformation, when graven images of God and Christ became taboo, large numbers of Medieval and Renaissance windows were smashed and replaced with plain glass. So why then did we decide to make the costly decision to install these beautiful stained glass windows in our sanctuary when it was built all those years ago?
I don’t really have an answer to that question, but here’s my guess. Knowing that we don’t need the windows to tell the stories, the faithful of this congregation wanted these windows because they understood that art inspires, that art creates space in our hearts and minds for our biblical imagination to insert ourselves into the stories we see each week, that art creates space for God’s Spirit to speak to our hearts and minds. So, with that in mind, let’s turn our attention to the window and story for this first week of Lent and see where God is speaking to us this day.
Jesus, having just been claimed and named beloved by God, is led into the wilderness where he learns what it is like to live on the edge. Here he is tempted by the devil for 40 days.
Ok, I am going to steal a page right out of Rodger Nishioka’s book here.
First Jesus is tempted by the Devil to do what?
TURN A STONE INTO BREAD – Create FOOD
That’s right, after 40 days of fasting it is safe to assume that Jesus is starving. The text actually says, famished. Jesus hasn’t just missed a meal or two. He isn’t in need of a snickers bar to get him through. The text tells us “he ate nothing during those days.” You can tell from our window that Jesus is faint; his hand is on his head, he is weary. Here he is, the Son of Man, out in the wilderness by himself for 40 days. He could have done it. He could have changed any of those stones at his feet into bread.
The temptation is for Jesus to use his authority to meet his own personal needs and desires. This is a theme that will present itself again later in this Lenten story, when he is on the cross.
Ok, so the 2nd time Jesus is tempted, what does the Devil promise to give?
POWER over all the kingdoms of the world IF JC will worship him.
You can see in the 5th row from the bottom, how the artist has drawn in a city in the distance, alluding to this 2nd temptation. The devil is tempting Jesus to act like the Messiah everyone expects; to exert political and military power over the world, to bring about peace through domination, to set himself up as king and judge. But Jesus casts aside this temptation with words from Deuteronomy. “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”
And then the Devil tempts him a 3rd time. What does the Devil dare him to do?
RIGHT! Throw himself off the top of the temple so the angels will rescue him.
On the surface, this looks like an invitation for Jesus to attempt suicide, but Scott Shauf, Professor of Religious Studies at Gardner Webb University, says that when you look at the historical context of the day you discover that many so called magicians performed death defying antics like this. These magicians were very popular in the eyes of the people; they were revered for their entertainment and mystical knowledge. Shauf goes on to say that part of this temptation is that of an alternative path for Jesus’ power, one that would lead to fame and riches rather than to service and the cross. But instead of giving into the test, Jesus again quotes from Deuteronomy saying, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Jesus in the middle of the wilderness comes to know who he is to serve; in the grips of hunger he understands his life and purpose and is empowered by the knowledge. There in the window, Jesus is weary, he is hungry, he is faint, but he is resolute. And then I look over to his right and I see something… I see another rock, another tree, another space for another person to come and dwell in the wilderness. Space for you, space for me, space for us. There is space in this window for our journeys into the wilderness. I would bet that each of us has already spent more time than we care to admit standing on that rock in the wilderness.
Maybe your wilderness looked like a hospital waiting room, or like an unemployment line, or a memorial service for a dear friend. Or maybe it looked too familiar, maybe it looked like your normal routine, full of all the things that usually brought you peace and joy, but at some point you realized that all the things you were working for weren’t bringing you happiness or fulfillment.
Wilderness times can come in many different shapes and sizes. Oftentimes, sojourns in the wilderness are unsettling and upsetting and we are tempted to do whatever we can, to take whatever measure we can to return to the comfort and normalcy of life just like it used to be.
But Jesus’ time in the wilderness prepared him to launch into a brand new ministry that honored God’s activity in his life. That weary hand on his forehead invites us to pay attention to the wilderness times. To use our times in that space to learn again to live in a new way; to live in a new way because the same old temptations and habits are drowning us in powerful undertows as we cling to crumbling foundations to keep us above water.
We must not be afraid of the wilderness because the wilderness can be life giving if we embrace the journey through it and do our best to recognize and resist the temptation to do things the way we have always done them.
Turn this stone into bread – care only for yourself
I will give you Authority over the earthly kingdoms – live into everyone else’s expectations
Throw yourself off the temple – Make a spectacle of yourself so that people will love you.
This Lenten season, may we remember that just as Christ was baptized and named beloved by God, so are we. As we make this journey through the wilderness of Lent may we remember that love which surrounds us, which meets us in the wilderness of our needs and help us to see a new way through.
And as we make this corporate pilgrimage through the desert of these interim times may we resist the temptations of doing things just as they have always been done, but rather embrace the newness that comes to us, the newness that promises to refresh us and remake us into what we need to be so that our greatest gifts are freed to meet the world’s greatest needs.
May it be so. Amen.