Sermon on the First Sunday in Lent
March 1, 2020
Matthew 4:1-11 The Trouble with Trouble
My sister has a dish in her living room, and it catches my eye every time I walk by. It says: The trouble with trouble is that it starts out as fun!
One of my earliest memories is when my twin and I decided to explore forbidden territory in the dining room. It was fun until he picked up the carving knife and almost cut his thumb off. A few years later, still a little kid, I was playing in the yard minding my little brother, when some of the neighborhood kids came by and asked if I wanted to join them on their trip to the candy store. Wow. The big kids paying attention to me and there would be candy in the bargain? What’s not fun about that? I’ll tell you what – being caught by mom, who happened to drive by just before we made it to our destination. There are good reasons why we are commanded to obey our parents, and follow God’s rule book in general.
Most of what gets us into trouble starts out really attractive. But it gets worse. Hi! I’m trouble. I’ve been looking for you! Yes, it’s true! Trouble, especially the kind that starts out fun or seductive in some way, has one purpose, and it is not our well-being. Trouble that comes as temptation is intended by evil to steal our goodness. What better way to impede Jesus’ mission to bring healing, mercy, justice, and hope to all people than to corrupt and divert his power? Satan tried to divert Jesus’ power by enticing him to quick access to fame and fortune. Most of us would be so flattered and excited we would miss the fine print, so to speak. But Jesus was well prepared by knowing the Word of God and using it in this and other episodes of spiritual warfare. Christians have so much power to recognize and expose evil, to speak truth to power when it runs amok, to defend ourselves and proclaim an alternative. But we don’t use this power well. We let fear of consequences and ignorance of alternatives stop us. Imagine how much easier we would get out of trouble if we memorized enough Holy Scripture to equip and protect us!
When we are tempted by the seduction of feeling good, feeling important, feeling special – what if we remember Jesus saying that we don’t live by what feeds our bodies or egos alone; but also by what feeds our souls, and that is found in the Word of God. When we are tempted by the promise of entitlement or immunity from consequences, especially when it comes in the form of “you are a good person, this is God’s way of rewarding you” – what if we remember Jesus saying Do not put God to the test for selfish gain. When we are tempted with power at the expense of our conscience, to worship the false idols of fame, prominence, or anything else, what if we remember Jesus saying, ‘Away with you Satan! For it is written, Worships the Lord your God and serve him only. Then, for sure, we will find the devil leaving us to pick on somebody more vulnerable due to fear and ignorance.
Let’s get smart. Let’s spend time in Holy Scripture, listening with the ear of our heart, to what God is giving us so we can help Jesus bring in the kingdom on earth now, in our daily realities.