Sunday, 9 March 2014

Passing the buck - sermon 9th March

Genesis 2: 15-17; &  3:1-7 
Matt 4: 1-11

 Passing the buck... the blame game

This week is all about temptations; and all about resistance
And it raised a whole lot of questions for me:
Why do we keep making bad decisions?
Why do we continue to give in to temptation?
How can we learn from Adam and Eve in the garden?
And how can we learn from Jesus – the second Adam who came to rescue us?

The serpent persuaded Eve to try the fruit... the forbidden fruit... knowing her vulnerability he was able to move her to action.
The next thing that happens as we all know is that Eve, feeling guilty, needs to share the responsibility... needs to share the blame – so she persuades Adam to join her in the fruit... using persuasion:
“Look, I’m fine so it must be ok
See how lovely it is”
Maybe she even used the same tactics that the serpent used – how great it would be to be wise, to have understanding!
Adam joins her.
And suddenly everything changes
Innocence is lost
Simplicity is lost
Purity is gone
And knowledge floods in
Knowledge of everything
Suddenly they know they are naked
They know that life will never be the same
And they are flooded with a new sensation, one they have never felt before: guilt and shame permeate their bodies; flood their consciousness – “We have done this! Oh! What did we do?!”
And then of course in come anger and blame and retribution: “What did you do, Eve?!”
“What have you done to me?!”
“It wasn’t me! It wasn’t me, the serpent made me do it...”

Sin has entered the world
And the blame game is born.
All through the bible there are stories of temptation and action and reaction; and every time the character has his moment of realisation, of regret, of starting over: repentance.

To be tempted is not sinful
We are all tempted....
It is what we do with the temptation

The word temptation as it is written in the bible means to be tested – not as we may see it now to be enticed into an evil act
And the word repentance means turning around – coming back to the straight path; starting over.
And the people of God, once that floodgate was opened could not hold back the flood.
People continue to be tempted, and give in to the temptation; and God saw them, and knew they needed something, someone to bring hope into the world
Someone who would face temptation and resist it
Someone who would live and love and show the world a better way; by himself living a kinder more compassionate life. (Though not a wimpy, subservient, weak life... not that!)
Someone who would put an end to the price of sin...
A second Adam
A new creation to break the power of sin and bring the hope of eternity

So God sent his own Son
A man, wholly human, and at the same time wholly divine.
A man subject to the same things as us: hunger and fatigue; frustration and eagerness; anger and love, and yet in all of those real human emotions, he was never drawn to sin.

There’s the thing that often trips people up! Jesus got angry, and tired, and hungry and frustrated, and was snarky (he called a bunch of Pharisees snakes!) yet in all of that, there was no sin.
So if like me, you feel your temper is sinful – remember, Jesus got mad – without sinning
It’s not losing your temper that’s bad – it’s what you then do with it
Jesus was so mad at what he saw in the temple forecourts he lost the plot – he threw tables over and chased people out.... but did not sin.

So what is it then?
Let’s go back to the wilderness with him
Jesus had just been baptised; he was filled with the Holy Spirit, he was totally aware of God’s presence; he was in a wonderful place
And then, he left the party (so to speak) and wandered the wilderness – I don’t know how many of you remember the pictures we showed you of that wilderness, but it is barren.
Mile upon mile of nothing: just hill after hill; dry dusty, bland coloured sand. The odd scrubby bush that looks like it has no life in it at all.
Small camps of nomads who are constantly on the lookout for travellers...

It is a lonely bleak place
And here Jesus wandered
And prayed
And reflected on the task ahead
The friends he would make
The people he would meet
The difficulties he would face
It would have been so easy in that time to shout at his father; to refuse to carry on; to demand to come home... but he did not

And that’s the fundamental difference!
Jesus was not inclined toward sin. At all. Ever.
He could be tempted.
But that was as far as it could go...
Just to be sure, the devil is allowed to call in and have a go
The devil knows people
The devil understands that we are all subject to different vulnerabilities
And, should anyone suggest to you that the devil is not real; that bad stuff happens, but it’s nothing to do with the devil. Do not listen. The devil’s wiles are cunning – and the way that society now denies his very existence plays directly into that game. If people do not believe in the devil, then they cannot be on their guard.

The devil visited Jesus at his most vulnerable
He was hungry and exhausted, he was weakened and defenceless... or so the devil thought!

The devil knew that Jesus was weakened and assumed that meant he could tempt him
The devil also knew how to communicate, what weapons to use
So he used scripture
The devil knew, knows scripture through and through
So using verses to show Jesus how he could bring relief seemed to him to be the best way in!

But the devil deal with the present; with the immediate, never really understanding the bigger picture
The tools that Jesus used against the devil, to resist temptation, were the same tools used against him
And, those same tools are available to us!
The Word is our arsenal
The Word, who lived and worked and taught and showed us the way; also showed us the best defence we have.
When the devil uses scripture to justify his arguments, Jesus comes right back at him!
And of course, Jesus could easily have turned the stones to bread; he could have thrown himself off the pinnacle... he could have done any of those things
But he didn’t. Because he simply did not want to, he felt no desire to do these things – it was not in his nature  - the devil did not understand this; but it was not until the third temptation that Jesus sent him on his way.
It was the final straw!
The audacity!
Bow down and worship me! Ha!
He had overstepped the mark
And Jesus banished him!
And that was that
It was over
He had been tested, and come through the other side
No blame attached
No buck passed.
Jesus faced evil, resisted and came through the other side
And that gives us hope

Every time we make our decisions we are making a choice. Good or bad, it is our choice. And if, the choosing makes you feel bad, well listen to your own heart!
And if the feeling bad leads to trying to apportion blame elsewhere...
Be honest!
We are simply refusing to own the consequences of our own actions – the buck has to stop somewhere..
“It wasnae me!”
“The De’il made me do it!”

No, not for us.
We can turn around, because Jesus showed us how

We need to be honest with ourselves; acknowledge our temptations, and praying to Jesus for strength, resist them, remembering all the way through, we are not the first, we will not be the last, and that because of Jesus, because of what he did, we have hope. 

Oasis in the Judean Wilderness (JMW 2008)

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