Temptation

This sermon was given by Rev Deborah on the first Sunday of Lent 2017, and took temptation as its theme.

Genesis 2.15–17; 3.1–7

Matthew 4.1–11

The first part of the sermon was highly interactive. Three boxes were placed on the alter rail, each wrapped in shiny gold paper. Members of the congregation were invited to come to the front and choose a box. Having made their choice, Rev Deborah then tried to tempt them with the offer of cash rather than open the box. you can hear how it went here://embeds.audioboom.com/posts/5674317-sermon-06-03-2017/embed/v4?eid=AQAAADJvyVhNlVYA

Today we are thinking about choices. I have three boxes. In each box there is something – it may be something good or something not so good. I am going to ask someone to choose a box and I am going to offer some choices. You have to decide what to do.

  • Box 1 (Money)
  • Box 2 (Toilet paper)
  • Box 3 (Turnip)

Choose and box and bargain for money or the content.

These are very simple choices, tongue in cheek choices. Most of the choices we make are much more complex. When we’re younger everything is black and white. I remember as a student putting the world to rights. However when you get older you realise that choices are not black and white they are often layered grey areas and choices are much more complicated. Today’s gospel reading is one that we are very familiar with. Jesus being tempted in the wilderness.

Let’s hear about it from Jesus mother.

 

He looked awful, absolutely drained. And it’s hardly surprising, is it?

Forty days out in the wilderness – that’s hell enough for anyone – but without food – I ask you.

He was lucky to be alive!

Barely was, mind you, when he came back staggering back into Nazareth.

A complete wreck he was, just about done in.

‘Why did you do it?’ I asked him.

‘What got into you?’

And all that he could say was that he had to, that everything depended in it.

He was never the same afterwards.

I used to joke that the sun had got to him.

But it wasn’t the sun of course, it was much more than that.

He wrestled out there, with himself, with the world, with all the forces of evil, and in some way I don’t quite understand, he won.

It was costly at the time, there was no doubt about that, a disturbing, frightening time – I could see the pain in his eyes afterwards.

He’d had to struggle, make painful choices, confront life at its darkest.

And though I never told him, I admired him for that.

It took courage to face reality, to ask yourself what it’s really all about.

Mind you, I always knew that he had it in him.

He had always been such a good boy, right from the start; too good some said.

Well, perhaps he was in a way – look where it got him after all.

Yet it wasn’t as easy as many thought.

He was still tempted – all too often and there would have been times when it would have been easy to give in, so easy to compromise, to bend just the once.

I know that’s what he faced out there in the wilderness through he never told me what exactly happened.

But he came back stronger, I have to admit it, more certain, more determined.

Not that he didn’t have his moments afterwards –don’t make that mistake.

It wasn’t plain sailing from then on.

He had to battle like you and I, harder if anything, for the path that he chose was so much more demanding.

Oh no! He endured temptations all right, as real as any we might face.

The difference is that he overcame it, right to the end.

That’s what made him so special.

That’s why people follow him, even now.

(Nick Fawcett)

It’s so easy to be tempted. We hear about it in our first reading. When the world began God made north, south, east and west. The east was a place called Eden. And in Eden there was a garden which was perfect. God made it for the two human beings he had created, Adam and Eve. In the garden that God had created there were lots of trees, but right in the middle was a special tree, and on that tree grew an apple. God said ‘you may eat whatever grows in the garden- except this apple. If you eat it you will know everything about good and evil and you will die.

But here was someone else in the garden. A snake, a cunning snake. He sidled up to Eve and said,

‘Mmm- that fruit looks good. It won’t kill you, you know. God just doesn’t want you to be as clever as him. Why don’t you have a bite?’

So Eve bit the apple and it was so delicious, she gave some to Adam, too. And suddenly they could see and understand a whole world of things, good and bad – but they knew that they had disobeyed God and were ashamed.

Snake (aka our Reader, Christine) to try and tempt others to eat the apple.

No one did. not even Bishop David, although he might have been swayed by a banana!

Temptation starts with a flicker of thought, a tiny idea that darts across the mind while you are doing something else. It seems harmless, one of those millions of things that the human brain comes up with. But then it returns, an hour or two later. You can feel it now as something familiar, and perhaps enticing. If I claim travel expenses for the trip , even though I had a ride from my friend… if I had a chance to make a cutting remark to the man who has been mean to me…I haven’t had chance to do my homework so I have the chance to copy it off my friend.

Always, to begin with, it seems quite reasonable, only a bit off limits. But if we play with the idea, or allow it to play with us, then a new course is set. It is like there is a tug of war going one. We know what the right thing to do is, but we are tempted to do something else.

A good vs bad tug of war was acted out by a set of twins

We are tempted to do the right things in the wrong way, for the wrong reasons. Part of the discipline of Lent is to recognise the flickering impulses, the whispering voices for what they are and to have scripture fuelled courage to resist. Christians have always found comfort in the fact that Jesus was tempted as we are but it is more than that. It is bringing God’s kingdom on earth. Every successful fight against temptation is one more step on the road to God’s victory.

Let us pray.

Gracious God,

We thank you for the time spent by Jesus in the wilderness, tested to the limit but refusing to be deceived. Help us to learn from his example; to be awake to temptation and ready to withstand it; to make time to hear your voice and reflect on your word. Help us to follow you and do your will, regardless of the cost. So that we grow closer to you and stringer in our faith. Amen.

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