(Sorry that this is late this week, snow days wreak havoc on people who work from home!)
Matthew 4: 1-11
So Jesus has just been baptized, and it seems that pretty quickly after that happens, he’s sent out into the wilderness. He’s got to see for himself what he’s made of, before he can make this journey that he’s just been called to.
And the devil tempts in three ways that are specific to his mission—he is tempted to save himself from hunger, to call upon God and the angels to save him from foolish choices, and to take the whole world in power.
These are choices that he must make, these are the temptations that are specific to him. Those of us who are here in this room today aren’t in any position, really, to be tempted by what Jesus is tempted by.
We have our own. We’re called to something different, and Satan, in a cruel imitation of Jesus, also meets us where we are. Somehow, the devil, Satan, the tempter, the advocate, whatever you want to name the personification of evil, knows exactly what we’re tempted by.
Jesus was able to go into the desert in order to face these demons head-on. Monks go into the wilderness to reduce the amount of distraction the world presents to those who wish to be more godly. They go to extremes—There are stories of Irish monks who go out in boats, away from any land, comfort, food or even a place to walk, in order to be able to hear God more clearly.
But who’s got time for that? Got to get supper on the table. Got to get to work Got to get the kids fed, dressed and off to school. Got to run got to go, got to work the list. I don’t think I even have time to be tempted, much less face the devil and his temptations.
Got to go, got to go, got to go. That in itself is a temptation. We live in a world that is very busy. Many things demand our time. And they are all good things, really. It is good that kids are involved in things outside of school. It is good that we try to get exercise, eat, work to put food on the table, and improve ourselves through Bible study, going to school, whatever.
But we get to the end of each of our days and measure what we did that was worthwhile, and realize we can’t remember much more than being in the car, or staring at a computer, or feeling the weight of the welding helmet on our neck. Where were the great spiritual insights? Where were the moments of divine light? We don’t remember.
And the devil has won for another day. We’ve not grown closer to God, and isn’t that the tempter’s goal?
Oh, it’s great to talk about the great sins Our Catholic brothers and sisters have categorized and named a very accurate and wise list--gluttony, lust, sloth, envy, and the others. Some of us do ok with one or two of them, but not so well with the rest. But we don’t really even have time to handle the biggies, because we’re caught up in the “littilies”. We get to the end of each day and poof! We’re done, caught up in the small stuff, and we’ve lost another day with God.
What’s important to you? No, really. What is it that you think is important to cultivate your relationship with God; your walk with Jesus?
Do you even know? Do you know what your favorite way to pray is? There are many ways. Do you know how to read your Bible?
Your relationship with Jesus is more than showing up here on Sunday mornings. It’s more than dropping money into the plate. Sorry, folks, but being with me and each other once a week isn’t much of a relationship with God.
We need to make our own wildernesses, because we can’t just up and leave work, family and church to take on what it is God would have us do.
So it becomes a matter of taking that little bit of time to check in with God. You don’t think you have time? We just took about five minutes at the beginning of worship today. You can do that. Pick a moment when the house is quiet, if you live in a busy home. For me, it is right after every one else has left the house for the day. Set a kitchen timer. Read just a little bit of Scripture, doesn’t matter where, doesn’t matter the academic understanding. Just let it roll around in your head. Be gentle with yourself if you are distracted during that time. Acknowledge that you’re distracted and gently steer yourself back to focus in on the text.
When the timer goes off, say amen and go on. Congratulations, you’ve just kicked Satan in the teeth for the day!
If you take this on, feel free to give your pastor a call, e-mail her/him about how it’s going if you get stuck. Let them be a resource to you, if you want to do this. They have their own struggles, they may not have the answer to every question, but you can sure talk about it, anyway!
We may not have out own desert to go to, but we can be sure that the devil has a whole list of temptations for us, and we may also be sure that in our busyness, he’s been winning. So, be not busy in the presence of God, and you start to take back your life. Who knows where it will lead?