Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, March 6, 2022

YEAR C 2022 lent 1

Lent 1, 2022
Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
Romans 10:8b-13
Luke 4:1-13

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We say that today’s Gospel reading is about temptation, and I suppose it is: The Temptation of Jesus.  But, in the end, it is really more about the identity of Jesus. Jesus has been out in the desert for forty days and forty nights.  And then the tempter comes and offers Jesus some relief if he will just go against . . . well, go against what it means to be the Son of God.  But Jesus refuses at every turn.

So the point of this sermon could be, Jesus is very good at resisting temptation, even when he’s hungry and exhausted.  But that is not the point I want to make.  Or, the point of this sermon could be, Jesus is like us: tempted in every way.  But that will not be the point either.  No, my point is going to be about rocks and bread.  Yes.  Rocks and bread.  And now you’re on the edge of your seat, I know.

So, as we just heard, Jesus is out in the wilderness.  He has been fasting.  He is hungry.  The devil, or satan, or “temptation” comes to him and says, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”  If you really are, then you will . . .  The oldest trick in the book, right?  If my parents really loved me, they’d buy me a new bicycle.  The implication is, if you don’t command this stone to become a loaf of bread, you are not the Son of God.  It is a challenge, sure, but a false challenge with no way out (if you believe the challenger).  Either you do this thing, or you are not who you say you are.  It is not a temptation; it is a trap.  The only way to deal with it is to sidestep it, right?  And that’s what Jesus does.  But he sidesteps it by way of pointing to something much bigger.

In response to the tempter, Jesus quotes Moses, when he was chastising the people for their lack of trust in God.  To review the quotation, in the 8th chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds the Israelites how God has watched out for them, protected them, instructed them.  He reminds them that when they were hungry in the desert, God gave them manna in order to make them understand that “one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”  They want bread, the thing they are familiar with.  Instead, God gives them something they have never seen.  In their smallness, and their focus on mere survival, they crave what is familiar.  Instead, God gives them something that is so out of their mindset that they actually call it, “what is it?” which is what the word manna means.  Manna.  What is it?

God continues to give them this new food, all the way to the Promised Land.  And though Israel’s trust in God during their wandering was shaky at best, Jesus in his complete trust knows that God will provide, and by quoting Moses in the desert, Jesus uses the moment to remind the tempter that God has already provided food in the past—for 40 years . . . in a desert.

But, of course, there is more here.  Much more.  “The people do not live by bread alone.”  Animals live by bread alone; but people don’t.  For animals, life is all about food.  Getting food, storing food, beating up the other animal for food.  And once the food is gone, they start again.  Food food food.  If you’ve ever had a dog, you know what I’m talking about.  A dog cares about food, and getting outside to get rid of the food through . . . exercise. 

This is the way animals are: constantly in search of their next meal.  But people do not live by bread alone.  Oh sure, we might survive on bread alone.  But surviving is not living.  Merely surviving is not what God created you to do.  Surviving is thinking too small.  God created you to live, to interact with other people, to love and laugh, and weep and mourn.  Bread is something that must be replaced every day.  But living is something entirely different than just surviving.  You do not live by bread alone

So what about stones?  Luke uses stones 3 times, in an interesting and consistent way.  We have today’s example connected to changing a stone into bread.  And a few verses before today’s gospel, John the Baptist tells those who have come for baptism, “God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham’.”  And a little less than 40 days from today, we will hear the Pharisees tell Jesus to order his disciples to stop praising him.  To which Jesus will answer, "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out." 

In Luke, we have stones not turning into bread, stones not turning into children of Abraham, stones not praising Jesus.  So what’s the connection?  Well, in all three cases, God could turn these stones into something else, but God does not.  Why not?  I think it’s because God intentionally does not deal in flashy miracles to accomplish things.  God does not reach down and move people and things around by forcing them to be something they are not.  The power of God is shown in drawing things into perfection, rather than in becoming something they were never meant to be.

Instead of an awesome overwhelming undeniable display of power of shock and awe . . . God sends a baby in a feeding trough.  Rather than some ruler who appears atop the mountain, commanding people to bow down and worship with his  arms raised in victory . . . Jesus appears atop a cross, nailed to the wood, arms open in defeat.  

Sure, God could use rocks to accomplish what needs to be done, but stones have their own part to play.  Stones should not be turned into bread, or into children of Abraham, or into choirs singing praises to Jesus.  The big moment for stones comes much later in the story, when a stone is rolled away to reveal the empty tomb.  Stones have their own place in creation and revelation: to reveal our salvation.  Let stones be stones, and let bread be bread.

And, of course, bread has its place in our ongoing story as well.  Jesus is not going to turn some stone into bread.  You might say, Jesus is going to turn himself into bread:  the bread of life, the bread that is blessed, broken, and shared.  When the tempter tries to get Jesus to turn a mere stone into mere bread for mere survival, he is showing the smallness of his thinking.  “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”  Oh please!  There is a much bigger future for a stone; and there is a much bigger future for bread; we should not confuse the two.  And because of stones and bread, there is a much bigger future for us, together.  You and I do not live by bread alone.  We do not find life alone.  We live in community.  We were built for community.  A community that gathers to share bread because the stone has been rolled away.  We find life in the bread shared in community, because Jesus meets us in the breaking of the bread.

The Tempter thinks too small, and assumes we do as well.  But we know from God’s Word the true power of stones and bread:

The stone is rolled away to reveal the glory at the resurrection of Jesus.  It is the curtain that rises to reveal the hope of eternal life, for those who mourn.  And the bread, through the power of the Spirit in our community, becomes the body of Christ, the bread of heaven.

And after we gather at this altar, we will go out into the world taking Christ’s victory with us.  Not by some cheap parlor trick of having been turned into loaves of bread.  And not with some awesome conquering power to forcefully rule over the kingdoms of the world.  We go out into the world to share this good news: that a baby has been born into our messy world, that God has submitted to the worst that is in us on the cross, that the stone has been rolled away from the empty tomb, that Jesus has come to us in the bread of life, and—because of all of that—the tempter has no power over us.

Jesus has overcome the power of death and the devil, and you and I together proclaim that good news, with the saints who have gone before, and those who are yet to come.  The stone will be rolled away, and the bread of heaven awaits us this day.


No comments:

Post a Comment