Way back on Tuesday of this week I was going to go with a light introduction into these texts. I had a few different options I was thinking about in my head, I’m not sure which one I was going to use, but something about how we should trust our lives to the God who created us, relying on the gifts God has bestowed upon us.
That seems so long ago now…
In the meantime the violence of Gadhafi against his own Libyan people has not let up and neither have our gas prices.
In the meantime seven young children died in a tragic fire in Perry County and the clan that goes by Westboro Baptist has declared they will come to picket the funeral.
In the meantime… Japan… 8.9 earthquake and aftershocks… tsunami… nuclear meltdown?
In your mercy Lord… hear our prayers.
Also Lord…. Where are you?
I know, I know… I should trust in the Lord and I should obey the Lord and I don’t need to know everything, nor should I act like I do know everything… but God… Father… Creator of us all… where are you?
We’re not the first who clamor to understand, nor will we be the last. Humanity has a history of it, we are legendary for our hunger for knowledge. Just ask the snake… you know the one who now slithers on the ground.
Centuries of art work has depicted it, Adam and Eve jokes abound, and yet I think the Old Testament passage that was read this morning is consistently misunderstood. I don’t think God asks us to choose ignorance and obededience vs. knowledge and disobedience.
I agree with my colleague, Andrew Foster Conners, who in his paper for our lectionary group wrote:
God does not require Adam and Eve to stay stupid. God doesn’t command them to choose ignorance. --Till and keep the garden together in community. --Work alongside God to preserve the garden for the purpose it was created - for life and beauty and love and community. --Till and keep it so that you can enjoy the countless blessings, the fruits, the bounty that is given. There’s no prohibition against learning, against knowledge, against thinking. There’s no prohibition against enjoyment or laughter or deepening one’s mind. There’s one prohibition - a command not to believe that you are so wise, that you are so important, that you are so godlike as to cross boundaries independent of God, boundaries that are there to protect you and the garden that gives you life.
And yet we cross those boundaries again and again. We believe our banks are too big to fail. We believe our bombs are too smart to miss… We believe our nuclear reactors are too secure to melt down.] And death follows just as God warned us that it would. We cross these boundaries so often that I don’t think this text is mostly about describing some historic event that made us into sinful human beings. I don’t think it is mostly about some “original” sin that now taints our life. I think it’s about who we are right now - human beings who have a hard time learning to trust God’s provisions, learning to heed God’s call, learning to live within a few important boundaries that God has set there for our own good.[i]
Trust God’s provisions… I can’t.
Learn to heed God’s call… I won’t.
Learn to live within the boundaries that God has set there for our own good… I don’t understand.
Sovereign God, omniscient God, omnipotent God…. please… fix this.
Thou shalt not put the Lord your God to the test.
Jesus was baptized and annointed for ministry and the Gospel of Matthew immediately sends him out to the wilderness to be tested. For forty days and nights he fasts and at the end of that time he is approached by the Tempter. Three different queries are made, but ultimately there is only one temptation - power.
Show me what you’ve got Jesus, “If you are the Son of God…” show us your power.
If you are the Son of God – command bread out of stones.
If you are the Son of God – command the angels.
If you are the Son of God – command the world to be yours.
Three times the Tempter is rebuked and Matthew’s narrative has the angels tend to Jesus and send him on his way teaching and preaching and healing but really it never lets up. All along the way he is faced with the same temptation – If you are the Son of God… show us your power: Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you... show us a sign from heaven.. reject the suffering that is supposed to befall upon you….[ii]
The final one comes moments before his death: If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.[iii]
And instead of claiming that power, he dies.
His resistance, we cannot understand. It’s beyond our knowledge. And you would think that his death for us would be enough to trust, but an honest look shows us not standing by Jesus, but instead mimicking the one who tempts him.
If you are truly the Son of God – PROVIDE us with more oil and food and wealth!
If you are truly the Son of God - STRIKE down that Westboro Baptist group!
If you are truly the Son of God – STOP the earth from moving in Japan!
Our frustration- just like the Tempter’s – comes in Jesus refusing to be who we want him to be, who we think we know he should be. “Jesus will not turn our stones to bread; he will not prove God to us; he will not turn from God to embrace the kinds of success we would recognize and applaud. He remains infuriatingly himself… he remains steadfastly God’s.”[iv]
And his response to us is simple, “Follow me.”
“Do you believe I am the Son of God?” “Follow me.”
“Do you know that this is the body of Christ, broken for you?” “Follow me.”
“Do you trust that this is the cup of salavation poured out for you?” “Follow me.”
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. – Psalm 46
It's all we've got.... and it's enough.
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
[i] Andrew Foster Conners. First Sunday in Lent: Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7. The Well, Davidson, NC, 2010. (Except for bracketed portion)
[ii] Matthew 12:38, 16:1, 16:21ff,
[iii] Matthew 27:40
[iv] David L. Bartlett & Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word. Year A, Volume 2. Patrick J. Willson. Matthew 4:1-11(Homiletical Perspective). p. 49.