Genesis and Matthew
The Rev. Dr. Mary Abrams
March 10, 2017
We have a lot of Sundays during the Church year that have titles, such as Pentecost Sunday, Trinity Sunday, Transfiguration Sunday, Christ the King Sunday. Well, if this first Sunday of Lent were to get its own name, it would have to be called “Temptation Sunday.” You may have already been confronted with temptation in regards to your now only-four-day old Lenten discipline, whether you decided to give up something for Lent or to take on something. For example, if you gave up say chocolate, all of a sudden there is chocolate all around you calling your name. It is on every TV commercial, your friends are bring it by and it is right there in front of you at the dreaded shelf at the checkout lane of the grocery store. If you decided to take on some volunteer work in your community for Lent your schedule may suddenly become too full with friends and fun activities to work in the new volunteer hours.
So now seems to being a good time to talk about temptation. There really is nothing different about today though because there’s always temptation all around us.
Today we read the Genesis story of Adam and Eve and the serpent. And out of Matthew the story of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness.
Temptation. It’s so subtle when it first comes to us, we may not even recognize it as temptation. We get a glimpse of something that we want, or something we think we really need, or something we think we really deserve. And then our mind starts to work on us.
• “If I don’t report this income on my taxes I’ll save thousands!”
• “If I take just one drink, I’ll relax, loosen up; have more fun.”
• “If I ignore and pass by that homeless person on the street he’ll still be ok.”
Once we yield to the temptation, next time, it becomes easier. We reason that “I did it once, one more time won’t hurt” and we give in to temptation again. After awhile, we don’t even bother with the inner conflict that went on in our heads. We “just do it.” We just follow our routine of leaving off the income. We may not be proud of it but we keep taking just one more drink. We still sense that perhaps its wrong, but we never stop to help a needy person.
When we leave here today, the temptations will still be out there. You will be teased by the beautiful, or the powerful, or the potential that the world offers. It will look good to you: success, money, intimacy, excitement, influence; the tempter knows what lures us in. Will we give into that temptation, or will we resist? Will we cave, as did Adam and Eve? Or will we fight the good fight, as did Jesus in the wilderness when the devil tempted him?
Steven Moulin, a Lutheran minister, posed three questions in one of his sermons. I’d like you to consider asking yourself these questions the next time you are tempted.
The first question is “Is this thing I am about to do good for me?” We know the things that are good for us and the things that are bad for us. I’m not talking about having a second piece of chocolate cake; I’m talking about a decision that is immoral or illegal or detrimental to our lives or the lives of others. Getting behind the wheel of your car after a night of drinking and having fun, for instance. We know right from wrong, we just need the courage to follow the right path.
The second question is this: “Will this thing I am about to do honor God?” You know how much it hurts you when your children or grandchildren do something you ask them not to do. Can you imagine how much God hurt when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit? Think about how God grieves when we do what we know is against God’s will? Like judging others because of their skin color, religion, economic status or any of the other hundreds of ways we judge others as bad on less then worthy. Like when we made decisions based only on our own wants and what improves our lives rather then what is for the common good of humanity.
And the third question: “Will I regret my actions tomorrow?” In his book Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired, Phil Hansen described his decision to change his life so that he might feel better about himself. What temptations have you given into that if you were to give up, would make you feel better about yourself.
Three questions, Is this thing I am about to do good for me, will it honor God or will I regret it?
Lent is not the season to beat up ourselves with rules and regulations and the failures of our lives. Lent is the season of introspection and repentance; a time to consider God’s amazing grace, and how our lives might be an expression of our gratitude for that grace. In the coming days of Lent, may we refuse to let temptation go unchallenged. And may that lead to good choices, joyful living, and a deeper faith.