Sunday, March 01, 2009

First Sunday In Lent

We read of Jesus being tempted. He goes to the desert after having been baptized by John, and after fasting and praying, faces the daunting task of Satan making the offer of the easy way. Be the magic man and turn the stones in to bread so you won't be hungry. Show your power in front of all the people by throwing yourself off the Temple, forcing the angels to save you in front of the multitudes. Be the king of the world, and the price - bow down and worship me - is it really so large?

We have to face the reality that these offered choices were real. Jesus could have done these things - he could have changed stones in to bread; he could have forsworn his Divine Sonship and worshiped the Devil - or the story itself is meaningless. Like us, Jesus faced the dread choice of the path of least resistance. Don't be who you are supposed to be. Don't make it harder on yourself, and others. Shoot, you can bring your kingdom - right here, right now - for the small price of obeisance to one other than your Father.

As we start out our Lenten journey with Jesus, we, too, have to face up to the temptations that plague us. Why bother with this whole church thing, because most Christians are a bunch of hypocrites? The public face of Christianity is small-minded, ignorant, hate-filled, and who wants to be associated with people like that?

The call to follow Jesus is not a call to forswear sex. It isn't a call to some transient understanding of bourgeois morality. Being a Christian does not mean consigning all those with whom one disagrees, and members of other religious faiths and traditions to eternal perdition. All of these are temptations, really, to take the treasure offered by God and cast it aside for earthly power and glory. All of this is nothing more or less than the desire to control the lives of others, not for the sake of God, but to show how wonderfully pious we are.

The call to follow Jesus is far more dangerous. We are called to offer the world, by example, the opportunity to live as God intended. Not as atomized individuals, but as a community dedicated to love, service, and the odd notion that Divine power is manifest most perfectly in the scandalous death of a political rebel. In our refusal to be a power, we most clearly show Divine power and presence. In the only real "No" that matters, our refusal to demand of others the allegiance to ourselves and our way of life, we show the world what grace really means. In selfless offering of our lives and fortunes to God, we demonstrate what it means to live as God created us to live.

Before we do that, though, we have to remember that even Jesus was offered a shortcut around the pain, the abandonment and betrayal, and death. In that offering, we have to see Jesus' eyes flick from side to side, his tongue licking cracked and dried lips, the sweat of internal struggle beading his forehead. Only after we recognize that Jesus struggled as we do, and overcame it, can we call to him to help us in our struggles as we pick up our crosses and follow him down the road that leads to death, and resurrection.

Virtual Tin Cup

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