LOOKING FOR LOVE
March 9, 2014 by Ken Dale
??????????? Back in the fall we started our church year off with a theme of God as potter and our being the clay.? It was well received and we all enjoyed having a potter in our midst as we worshiped at Pemaquid.? During Advent our theme was ?sacred? as we focused on sacred time, sacred space, sacred people, sacred knowing, and sacred being – ending with sacred doing.? Today we begin our journey to Easter with the season of Lent and again we have a theme. Lent is a time of introspection ? taking stock of our lives and seeing where perhaps it would be good to make some changes.? The theme, from the same resources we have utilized in the earlier seasons of the year, comes to us from the film Urban Cowboy.? No ? we will not be wearing cowboy hats and boots until Easter.? The theme actually comes from a song in the film: Lookin? for Love in All the Wrong Places.? Truth be known, in our staff meeting we thought that was a bit on the negative side so we?ve chosen to just call it Lookin? for Love.
??????????? Following this theme each week we will consider a personality from the lectionary texts- including Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman at the well, the shepherd, and Lazarus.? This morning we find Jesus in the desert and a story of temptation ? as we are given opportunity to consider looking for love in the things that only provide temporary satisfaction.? Jesus is seen as the resistor, but in resisting, true communion with God is found.
I read that the Greek word for ?temptation? carries the meaning of ?testing to reveal what is hidden.?? This temptation for Jesus occurs right after his baptism.? I got a kick out of Barbara Brown Taylor?s sermon on the text as she says that Jesus? hair is still wet from his baptism.? But in that baptism he is named God?s beloved son.? He is tempted three times in the story.? In each temptation we do discover who Jesus really is ? what Jesus is really all about in his response to the temptation.
If temptation is a road, it is one with forks in it.? The nature of temptation is that these forks force us to make decisions:? Will we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit ? the direction in which we are following what we think Jesus would do ? what God would have us do??? Or is it opportunity for evil?? Sometimes the pull of temptation is so demanding that the choice of turning at a major intersection is all we can see.? It?s big and obvious.? But sometimes it is in the small choices, the slight detours that when followed one after another lead us in the direction of ungodly destinations.? Such is the road of temptation.? And sometimes we find ourselves on that road in our response to any given situation ? is our decision in response following the path of God?s love or is it opportunity for the furtherance of evil. ??Scripture tells us do not repay evil with evil.? The simple question ??What would Jesus do??? is a good guide.? But such decisions are not always that simple, the answer may take some struggle to arrive at as we go against human nature.? We touched on that last week.
In the first temptation the tempter speaks to the hungry Jesus, ?if you are the Son of God? (I read that is more accurately translated ?Since you are the Son of God?) command these stones to become loaves of bread.?? Jesus is offered the opportunity to rely on his own powers rather than God?s provision for bread.? His response is scripture that says, ?One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.?? His choice is to remain faithful and to trust in God.? The second temptation focuses on Jesus? vulnerability and need for safety and even includes a scripture quote to show God?s agreement.? The text used is verses 11 and 12 from Psalm 91.? The Psalm speaks of those who ?live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty? ? who trust God.? The text is used out of context and Jesus again refuses as the text does not endorse testing God?s protective grace for the sake of self-assurance.? Jesus responds with his own scripture text, which is used in context.? ?Do not put the Lord your God to the test.?? And finally the third temptation that attempts to seduce Jesus with dominion and prestige.? But Jesus will not misuse his power to amass clout and esteem.? All three temptations give Jesus opportunity to reveal himself as God?s faithful child ? as Son of God.? He does not choose what appears to be the quick fix – easy out.? Instead his choice is God?s way and so his relationship with God is deepened.
It would be easy to read this story in isolation ? as if it a one time test for Jesus.? But temptation does not work that way ? for him or for anyone else.? We do not just make a one-time decision and the battle is won.? If we read this story as if it were the only story we might think it is one time for Jesus.? But we know later in Matthew?s gospel when Peter did not like hearing Jesus? words about his own suffering and death.? Peter tried to stop Jesus and Jesus replied, ?Get behind me Satan!? You are a stumbling block to me.?? Jesus was undoubtedly tempted to turn off the road he understood God wanted him to walk and made his choice.? I cannot help but think he struggled in some way with the same as he prayed in the Garden at Gethsemane ? if there is a way, take this cup from me — but your will not my will be done.? Forks in the road and decisions that were sometimes so very difficult ? but always his choice was to follow the way of God.
We may not be tempted by the things that tempted Jesus, but at root, our temptations have a commonality with his: to mistrust God?s readiness to strengthen us to face our trials, to face our most difficult decisions, to choose to follow God?s ways of love, forgiveness, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, faithfulness, self-control.? Not always an easy choice ? but following God?s ways and trusting God to be at work in our following.? In our choices for such we allow the grace of God to flow in and through our lives.? We trust Paul?s words, ?My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.?? Such a life is grounded in God.
Barbara Brown Taylor suggests that through each of the three temptations the devil is suggesting that Jesus deserved better than what God was giving him, and offered his own enticements instead.? But Jesus? refusals show us who he is ? we see that which is hidden ? the one whose power is in weakness and self-surrender ? ?someone who can listen to every good reason in the world for becoming God?s rival and remain God?s child instead?
Looking for love in all the wrong places ? looking for love in too many faces?
Or finding love ? in the voice of God who says ?This is my beloved child in whom I am well pleased?.?? A voice that is spoken to us each and all and calls us to follow the ways of God?s love ? God?s forgiveness ? and trusting in that voice to lead us and guide us ? and find a peace that only God can give.