February 18, 2018
The First Sunday of Lent
Indian Hill Church
Reverend Dr. Stephen Caine
1:9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” 12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”(Mark 1:9-15, NRSV)
Let us pray: God of our salvation, fill us with your strength to resist the seductions of our foolish desires and the tempter’s vain delights, that we may walk in obedience and righteousness, rejoicing in you with an upright heart. Amen.
Today is the first Sunday of Lent, forty days, or roughly a tenth of a year. Lent is roughly 40 days, or approximately a tenth of a year, a tithe of the year, where we look deep within ourselves and our faith, asking ourselves what it means to be a child of God and where are the places and the ways we are failing to live as God created us to live.
And every year the first Sunday of Lent begins in the wilderness. And every year the first Sunday in Lent is always Jesus’ temptation. Always. The story is a little different depending on which Gospel we read, but the location is always the same— the wilderness and the focus is always the temptation of Jesus. However, as Fred Craddock, one of my favorite preachers says, “it is difficult to listen to a (text) a scripture passage when there are other (texts) scripture passages in the room talking about the same subject matter, often in ways more elaborate and more familiar. Mark is the text before us, but Matthew, Luke and John are also in the room.”
Mark’s Gospel take on Jesus temptation uses a shocking economy of words, tells of three major events in the ministry of Jesus: his baptism, his temptation in the wilderness and his first preaching in Galilee. Mark’s agenda is to leave out the details and get to the point of his message; Jesus ministry will be one of confrontation and challenge. He will confront the devil, the principalities, the powers, and ultimately death on the cross.
According to Mark’s gospel, immediately after Jesus is baptized he is driven out into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit where he is tempted by the devil and visited by wild beasts for 40 days. For those 40 days Jesus had to have asked himself what life was all about, who he was and who God was, where God was and what was the point of his life. He survived those 40 days, didn’t give in to the temptations.
Mark’s gospel, unlike Matthew and Luke doesn’t tell us the intimate details of his temptation in the wilderness. This period in the wilderness was essential to everything that came after it for Jesus.
So, what is happening? Obviously, Jesus was being tempted. How and what was he tempted to do? This is where the other Gospel versions enter the dialogue, we know that he was tempted as he fasted the devil playing on his hunger. Then he was tempted by the devil to test God. And finally, he was tempted by the devil to worship the devil and all of creation would be his. Mark leaves these details out, but I am letting them in. At the heart of Jesus’s temptation is the temptation of a quick fix to his current situation. He was fasting and hungry, so the devil offers him the quick fix of turning stones into bread. I believe that this is some most insidious byproducts of temptation; the quick fix.
It comes in various names and forms call it impulse buying, instant gratification, indulging in fleeting pleasures and where we expect to gain something from nothing. Let me give some examples:
I am not the best handyman in the world but watching HGTV and DIY Network have inspired me to try to fix things around our home. So off I go to Home Depot with my list…and you know this isn’t going to end well. The project ends up functional because I make it work but it looks very amateurish and I always say if I had a plan and laid out what I planned to do it would have been so much better.
Another example, for our church. We have an extensive list of wants, dreams and wishes. I have spoken about them many times, air conditioning for the entire building so we can host vacation Bible School in the summer, so our Nursey School children don’t roast in the late spring and early fall. An elevator for better accessibility to the entire building and better campus security. We can spend lots of money and quickly fix each of these and many more wishes, dreams and wants. We can buy fans for the classrooms but does that really address the bigger hope for a more comprehensive plan for better accessibility for our facility. We can put in a ramp a for wheelchairs but does that really address the bigger hope for a more comprehensive overview for better use of our facility. We have locked the doors to the church building but does this quick fix really address the more comprehensive safety issues and concern for our faith community. The quick fix is very tempting, and it can solve an immediate problem, but it can also leave many more problems unsolved.
On a much deeper level, we have all been assaulted again with another school shooting, this time in Parkland, Florida. I have heard the interviews of survivors and anguished cries of parents and leaders to end gun violence. It is painful to watch, listen to and to try to comprehend the anguish of those families. It brings out a range of emotions— shock, grief, anger and rage. Yet, nothing seems to change, this is the 18th school shooting this year! How much longer must we continue to have innocent children die because our politicians are afraid to do the right thing and ban assault weapons. In my uneducated view, the rights of the second amendment does not mean that innocent children, youth and brave teachers people must die so we can have the right to bear arms. I can think of no other purpose for AR-15 than to kill people. And how does a boy who can’t legally buy a beer— legally purchase a machine gun?
The temptation, the quick fix, is to lock the doors, ban all guns, and to incarcerate troubled, disassociated, young, white males. While that may seem to be the answer it really doesn’t get to the heart of the larger problem.
While yes, we must fix the problems of school violence, guns and troubled, disassociated, young people and quickly! We can’t let another school shooting happen without something being done, but that can’t simply be it. Like so many issues that we face cooler heads must prevail and come up with a long-term plan.
A wise person once told me following a Session meeting that “emotional responses make horrible laws (legislation).” Often a quick fix leads to more problems and issues. Yes, you must address the presenting problem, however more importantly we must not stop there. Jesus could have easily given into the temptation and fed his hunger, but the big picture was about so much more. Call it the long view. We can quickly address the issues and fix them, but we can’t stop there, it isn’t over, it just means the real work has begun.
To me it seems a real temptation for us today in our personal lives, our church community and our lives together in our society to seek the quick fix and it is taken care of, we addressed that issue and fixed it time to move on. However, I believe the more faithful response is to take the long view, look at the long-term effects for the future. Yes, we fix the presenting problems the leaking roof, the drafty window, the locked door, but then the real work begins— in seeing beyond the quick fix to the long term. The life of faith much like the season of Lent is a marathon not a sprint! We might want to say a prayer and move on, check done, but the real life of faith is a day-after-day journey. Not a moment on a Sunday morning. It is a discipline, a commitment, a long-range plan.
And here is the beauty of this story of Jesus temptation in the wilderness, he was not alone, the same Spirit of God that descended upon Jesus at Baptism and drove Jesus out into the wilderness also accompanied him during that time and brought him back again.
God will not abandon us during our wilderness temptations. And that’s not a bad thing to remember at the beginning of Lent and for all of life. So, let us look at our challenges, our temptations, our struggles, our quick fixes and hear the promise of God’s presence with us, in them, through them, around them and then look for God at work in and through them for the long-term for the sake of this world God loves so much.
Let us pray:
 Fred Cradock, “Test run,” Mark 1:9-15 Sunday, March 9, 2003 the Word, The Christian Century February22, 2003
 Reverend Dr. David Lose, in the meantime. Lent 1 B: Wilderness Faith, 16 Feb 2015 http://www.davidlose.net/2015/02/lent-1-b-wilderness-faith