We. Are. At. War. Matt. 4:1-11
#OneReasonForLent is the Podcast for March 5, 2017. Lent is more than just a quaint little custom we keep. It is serious spiritual business. As Jesus comes to renew things, he has to turn everything on its head and lead the way. We. Are. At. War. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay # MySpiritualAdvisor #SpiritualWarfare #Renewal #Recapitulation #Exodus #Samuel #King #MtSinai #MtofOlives #ReversetheCurse #Jesus #Temptation #PioneerofOurSalvation #Hebrews #Deuteronomy
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For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 3/5/2017 The 1st Sunday of Lent.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 4:1-11.
We. Are. At. War.
There are many significant themes and events running through the Temptation of Jesus Christ, always the first reading for the season of Lent. Lent is the Christian Season where we concentrate on this constant attack from the Evil One, which is persistent year round, but Lent is the yearly spiritual boot camp that reminds us that there IS a battle going on here. It is a battle between evil and good. Period.
In the passage today, the battle is three fold to drive us away from following God. The first is to use our relationship with God to meet our own needs. The second is to use to show that our relationship with God somehow makes us powerful, and thus, famous, or otherwise ingratiated to others. The third way is to have us worship other gods so that we will not remember that there is one Lord and him only do we serve.
The whole passage has as its context other events from Scripture, before and to follow this temptation. The first event is the Exodus. It is no accident that the ministry of Jesus starts in the desert with forty days of fasting. It was the Hebrew people who were lead out of Egypt to the desert and were tempted by Satan while Moses was up on the mountain. He tempted in the desert when they were hungry. He tempted them when they were delivered into the Promised Land to use their power as a kingdom to rule instead of serve.
The Hebrews, after they had seen the hand of God roll back the Red Sea and lead them out of slavery in Egypt, still wondered if God would provide food for them. They complained day and night until the Lord provided to their satisfaction. When he gave them bread it was wonderful until they were tired of bread and wanted more. Their mistake was that they didn’t see themselves as the people of God on a mission. Instead, they saw God as their servant who was to give them the comfort they wanted, not send them out to serve.
Here is the context for the temptation of Jesus Christ by Satan for food after he was hungry in the desert for forty days. It was and is a real battle to put aside his desire for what he wanted for his human body. Jesus is not just showing us how to rebuke the Devil, but he is reversing the sins of the Fathers and Mothers. He is renewing the stamp of being God’s people. He is reminding us, in our doings, that we need to be careful that we aren’t serving God only to get our comfort. Jesus will enlist disciples and apostles to be a different sort of people. We are called to be that different sort of people. Although we do need to take care of our needs, yes, it is not our focus. We are to be a people who are focused on the Word of God, Jesus and Scripture. It is the Word in Eucharist and Scripture that sustain us.
Nothing could be more evident of the mark of scripture on this period of temptation of Jesus than when the Hebrews had God as their king and the prophet Samuel sent to guide them. They wanted earthly power and to be like other kingdoms so they demanded a king. Their focus wasn’t on being a people who changed hearts to serve the Lord through kindness, generosity, and worship, etc. They saw themselves as the “People of God,” a privileged sort that meant they would have political dominance. It was lost on them that they were sent to serve the people, not advance their political cause and power.
Jesus reverses this advance of the Evil One by rebuking the use of our status as God’s people to show our specialness is in worldly power. He did not throw himself down to display his specialness as God and we don’t throw ourselves down to prove useless points for bullies on the playgrounds of life.
No. Our specialness should be in service to God, one another, and then the world. Jesus, in the desert, reverses this goal and aim. His rejection of Satan’s temptation is the beginning of the renewal. Our observance of Lent is its continuance.
The two previous examples prove the last point of the Temptation. Remember the Hebrew people, saved by the Lord, impatient with Moses up on the mountain meeting with God, made a god (small “g”), so that they could do what they wanted. Their impatience with God led them to worship other gods. Jesus will have none of that with the Devil after being in the desert, fasting, for what is a long time and probably seemed longer. Time seems to slow when we are hungry or lonely. The offer of power can be an amazingly tantalizing thing.
Jesus reverses this advance of the Evil One. When offered to have all the kingdoms of the earth to puff him up, relieve his loneliness, Jesus rebukes the Evil One. He renews the meaning of being the people of God. Serving God is not about being the best “in everybody’s grill”. It is not about dancing after the touchdown, making a “three” sign after hitting a three pointer, or watching the homerun go over the fence. Being faithful means that we serve God. We do what God calls us to do.
The temptations to use our relationship with God to meet our needs, make us powerful, or give us a small “g” god who lets us do what we want happens to us all. These temptations happen in real time, with the pick ups, drop offs, book clubs, card clubs, service clubs, facebook arguments, school work, take home work, relationships, etc. It can be so confusing and hard. Yet, Scripture again, drips on this passage and steps up to help us. In Hebrews it reminds us that these temptations are the reason Jesus came to be born our birth, walk our walk, talk our talk, live our life, die our death, and then rise to everlasting life taking us with him.
He is the “pioneer of our Salvation.” He is the one who leads us. The letter to the Hebrews tells us that our Pioneer is made perfect through suffering. He renews the suffering. He gives the suffering meaning. He transforms the suffering. That is what he is doing in the wilderness for forty days. He is taking on the spiritual battle and showing us the way.
Ephesians reminds us that Scripture is the “sword of the Spirit.” Scripture is an active force. Words have power. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy three times to take on Satan. Then he says his own word which is a word we should say often: “Get behind me, Satan!” Those words can give clarity.
If you don’t think it is a battle, then look at the ways that the Evil One tries to convince us that we are not worthy, the only way out is the sinful way, the only option is to hunker down and try to get what we want. All kinds of confusion reigns in our lives when evil is present.
It was not wrong for Jesus to make loaves of bread to eat miraculously. He fed the 5,000 and the 4,000.
It was not wrong for Jesus to use his power to establish that he is the Lamb of God. He changed water into wine to serve that purpose.
It was not wrong for Jesus to worship. He often went to the Mount of Olives to pray.
The key is that he used each of these things for its intended purpose. He used the bread to feed those who followed him. He used the wine to announce his ministry had begun, after waiting until he was 30. He used the Garden of Gethsemane on the Temple Mount to worship God by submitting his human desires to the will of the Lord.
Lent is the Season of the Christian Year when we return to the fact that we are at war with evil, within ourselves and in the world. The enemy is our arrogance, impatience, our insistence on our own will, our desire to be satisfied, our dissatisfaction with what God has given us, and more. The tools we have to fight this are the Word of God, both in the Eucharist and in the Scriptures. Our example is Jesus Christ who renews all things and transforms suffering and/or failure into glory.
We. Are. At. War. Dismissed. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2017.
Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian