Deuteronomy26:4-10; Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13

Turning Over Stones

Here are some stones I have overturned to see what ideas are underneath. I hope you can grab hold of something, pull -- and discover that it has some homiletic roots for you.

My thoughts for the first Sunday in Lent will focus on the following verses of the Gospel.

Jesus returned from the Jordon and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days.

The same Spirit that descended upon Jesus earlier in the Gospel of Luke now leads Jesus into the desert -- into the wilderness.

Why this action of leading? Here Jesus is lead to engage in his first of many battles with Satan. Jesus, from the onset, confronts evil head on in his preparation to overcome it again and again in his ministry -- an ultimately at his resurrection from the dead. Satan can not be avoided or dismissed. Satan can not be circumvented. Evil is actively confronted with purpose.

Into the desert

The desert -- or the wilderness -- referred to here is not to be confused with the Arizonian cascading sandscapes peppered with cacti and mammoth plateaus leading to a horizon of pink, chalky skies. Today a South westerner may jump into his convertible on a Friday afternoon and deliberately speed into the serene desert on a road to nowhere in order to clear his head of a week worth of corporate America infestations. However, in the time of Jesus the desert was a dreadful place that would have been avoided if it all possible.

The desert was unclean; for it was not a place where running, water could be readily found with which to clean and wash; that is, cleaning rituals could not be conscientiously followed in the desert. Further, because it was avoided by the masses it proved to be a safe hiding place for outcasts, thieves, fugitives and marauding bandits looking to score big by plundering a caravan of imported goods.

for forty days.

The howling winds of the desert wisping across wide open expanses of sand were also thought to be the shrieking and wailing cries of demons cast back into the wilderness after being expelled from exorcists.

Accordingly, this is where Satan would be sought out -- in a bleak, dangerous, forsaken place deplete of anything pure and upright. In this setting Jesus does not simply cross paths with Satan; rather the Spirit leads Jesus to seek a lengthy and arduous confrontation where Jesus is tested by Satan.

It is written -- One does not live on bread alone -- You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve -- You shall not put the Lord, your God to the test.

These are the passages from scripture with which Jesus arms himself during his temptation. Satan appeals to the hunger for food, the hunger for power and glory and the hunger for proof of the protection (perhaps even the existence) of God.

Jesus knows that it is not soley food which provides life; rather it is every word which comes from the mouth of God. It is every ray of love which eminates from the Father. Further, Jesus is sure of his intimacy with and love from the Father. There is no need to safeguard His own glory or seek power. There is no need to test God.

HOMILY: Jesus confronts, face to face, the evil of the world at the beginning of his ministry. We too should face our demons at the beginning of this season of Lent. Let us not circumvent them. Let us not deny them. Let us confront them with the power of the Spirit leading us. Let us confront them with that which gives us life -- the Word of God. No matter what scare or tempts us in the process, let us remember that Jesus is not left to do battle alone -- and neither are we. Our heavenly Father who loves us will protect us in the midst of battle. What must we face this Lent? What successful showdowns will make us stronger and help us to confront future evils in our lives? Do we trust that the protective spirit of Jesus is with us just as God was with him in his desert experience?

Let us concentrate on that which gives us true life and true happiness. Our relationship with God and his Word. In this relationship, tempations will pale in comparison to the love of the Father.

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