Monday, March 15, 2010
Giving the Devil Her Blog
Jesus full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. Luke 4:1-2, NIV
You humans have a saying, "The devil is in the details." You don't know how right you are. I really shouldn't be telling you this, it being a trade secret and all, but all of the wars and genocide; the violence, prejudice, and hatred, they're mere cover fire for the real onslaught. If I can keep you distracted with "shock and awe" then the more subtle attacks which lie hiding in the weed-like details, the everyday stuff of life, go virtually undetected. And once I establish a beachhead, I am almost impossible to remove, yet alone, resist.
The secret to temptation is really no secret at all. I only dangle before a person what they themselves already desire. The old "carrot and stick" approach, keeping fulfillment just one step out of reach, and of course, concealing my role in the process in the myriad of details. And before you know it, scandal, ruin, values and position compromised. Booya! Score one in the old victory column! And the beauty of it all is that they do it to themselves, and have little to no idea of my involvement. Ah, the satisfaction is to die for, so to speak.
The one exception to the rule, over which I have scratched my horns for centuries is the case of Jesus of Nazareth. Obviously, over the course of time you win a few, lose a few; balance and harmony in the universe; yin and yang; yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. But the way I lost and the stakes involved... It should have been an easy play. It really should have...
I mean, come on, the guy fasted for forty days and nights -- obvious piece of cake, so to speak. Dude, he was hungry! Duh... tempt him to use his power to create food for himself. Rocks into bread. Scorpions into lobsters. Whatever! Jesus could have done it with his eyes closed; one arm tied behind his back; while hopping on one foot. You could here his stomach growling for miles. And the beauty of it all was playing out the implications. Rocks into bread... Sand into fish... An olive tree into a full course meal for a starving family... Become a traveling , magical, miracle, freak show. Forget the cross and the Father's will. Meet a few pressing needs now. Take the short term gains and let the long term take care of itself. But he resisted, and all I managed was a long foul ball down the right field line. Strike one.
Not to be easily deterred, I showed him all the kingdoms of the world in an instant. Told him that they would all be his if he just worshiped me. Thought I could slip that one past him, play on his compassion for the suffering of humanity, and have him forget that they were really his to begin with. But he saw through my effort, and I fouled it straight back. Strike two.
Now I really had to dig my heels in. Down to my last strike. The game hung in the balance. What to do? What to do? The it occurred to me: Play on his sense of doubt. Yeah, that's the ticket. If you are the Son of God... A wonderful word, if. You have no idea how much havoc I wreak with just those two simple letters: i... f... if... If you are the Son of God, make a big show. Everyone will see and everyone will know that you are truly God-in-the-flesh, and they will worship you and this messy business with the cross can be all forgotten. I thought I had him. I really did. I didn't even hear his reply. The pitch slipped right past me. Called strike three. I was out.
I put up a protest. Threw a base or two, even kicked a little dirt. But it did no good. Game over. I had lost the battle but was unwilling to concede the war. I was not through with Jesus of Nazareth; we would meet again. I am not used to losing, and am unashamedly what you humans would call a "poor loser". Oh, I can feign graciousness, but inside I am aflame with anger. Failure in my business can have eternal consequences, and is not tolerated under any circumstances. Hey, but I'm the boss, right? Who's going to question me -- and live?
So, I didn't fail. No, I just... It was just... a temporary setback. Yeah, a temporary setback. That's the ticket! I would find a weakness somehow, somewhere and exploit it. I just needed to bide my time and look for an opportune moment. Perhaps, one of his followers, I thought to myself at the time, a wicked smile twisting across my lips... Yeah, one of his followers. That's the ticket! But that story is a whole other post...
And so the devil failed in her attempt to bring Jesus up short of the cross. How is the devil doing in our midst? As the saying goes, "If you want to follow Jesus, you'd better look good on wood." What fears do we have that the devil plays upon? What weaknesses, unconfessed doubts, misguided ambitions do we suffer from, which give the devil an avenue of attack? What are we willing to settle for which brings us up short of the cross?
Lent is a time to explore these questions; to draw closer to God and God's vision for us. We do so, confident in the knowledge that Jesus has gone before us... and has won. And that even in our darkest hours, when temptation looms largest... We have hope. We can bear up. We can struggle through; stagger forward, carrying our appointed cross and following in the path pioneered and perfected by Jesus our Savior and Lord.
Our Lenten journey has begun now in earnest. Amen.
Sermon for Lent 1c (RCL).
No, I have not forgotten how to count. Due to popular demand by my many devoted followers, all 2 of them (I do appreciate you, honest, I do), I thought I would post the whole series of the what I am calling "The Stories of Lent C". Okay, okay, so there is no demand, just my OCD, but I hope you enjoy them anyway. Peace out.
I am the Unlikely Pastor. Welcome to my world.