Monday, February 11, 2008

Lent 1: Matthew 4:1-11

1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 11Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. NRSV
In this classic gospel pericope for Lent 1, the devil first tempts Spirited into the wilderness Jesus to be oh, so relevant by turning unconsumable stones into useful bread...but not only is Jesus himself bread, he is far more than basic survival food, Jesus is The Stuff of ultimate revival, a.k.a. Living Bread, nutritious grain that won't rot or mold or decay! Challenging Jesus to be ultra-spectacular by jumping off the iconic Jerusalem Temple? But we know Jesus is the temple; in fact Jesus is more than the temple. Would the Son of Heaven yield to promises of power so extensive and extreme as possession of all the empires of the world? But in Christ Jesus all the world possesses the cross of Calvary, power of life over the death-dealing, life-negating pretenses of too many earthly governments and *other* assorted administrations. Jesus provides and Jesus is Eternal Supply; Jesus is Lord over and against the insufficiency of temple sacrifice, the pretense, dehumanization and violence of Roman imperialistic rule. Food, worship, lordship. How do we, why do we trust decayables and consumables and symbols of our own cultural realities rather than the Word of Life and the Spirit of Life?

Leading up to the day of Pentecost I hope to be teaching a 4-class series on Galatians; in tandem with Paul's text we'll explore our own and maybe even imagine our neighbors' conscious and apparent ethnicities, assorted "people hoods" and typical expressions of those traits and persuasions and try to discern why and what forms of worship (teaching, fellowship, outreach, etc.) appeal to us and discern ways to honor Galatians 3:28 without becoming an undifferentiated blob. Where was Galatia? Galatia had shifting boundaries; Galatia was the first ethnic church! A Roman province, Galatia was largely an immigrant community that hadn't originally been Jewish before becoming Christian; Gaul denotes Gaelic or Welsh or Celtic ethnicity, peoplehood. In Galatia practices that were more than and less than the gospel were transpiring: where are we? do we happen to live in Galatia? In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul reminds us:
Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures...
Quintessentially Paul, the gospel is death and resurrection, and throughout the letter to the church at Galatia Paul writes about the freedom and bondage of the gospel...bound by faith to the cross and the empty grave, chained to liberty in Christ with freedom to be and freedom for service.

As the Spirit of Life drives us into and leads us through our post-baptismal desert and seductively suggests we meet people's demands for appropriately relevant programing, to become the blingiest, dazzlingest building on this mesa or *even* in the tri-mesa area and to aspire to mega-amounts of income (you know about the measurable values of financial articulation) and overflowing church sanctuaries...will we be ready to respond with words of scripture, Words of Life, and more than anything, will we be a Living Word on our neighbors' lives, a reality that demonstrates the death of death and the victory of life? Will we live as the presence of the crucified and risen Christ?? In the power of the Spirit of Life, I trust we will—God being our help!

1 comment:

Mary Beth said...

Gorgeous writing. Much to ponder. Thank you!