10 February 2008 – Lent 1 - Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-17, 25-3:7 – Matthew 4:1-11
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Peter’s at Ellicott Mills
The Big Lie
Temptation. It is everywhere, all the time, all around us. Yet, often we miss naming it for what it really is, which is usually a big lie. The big lie is either fed to us, or we lie to ourselves.
In the story of Jesus we need to make sure we remember: this is about Jesus, not us. And although we can think of instances of each of these temptations both in our public and private lives every day, that’s not what this is about. It is about who Jesus is: the Son of God who walks only in God’s way. It’s not about us, it’s about Him – he who is our salvation.
Similarly, the Genesis story is about who we are. We may as well admit that it is difficult to hear this story on its own merit since it has been so over preached, over analyzed, and overly “applied” to whether or not we tend to overeat, lie, get greedy, or any other of the seven deadly sins, which as I said on Ash Wednesday begin to sound rather quaint in today’s world where all seven are pretty much touted as virtues. Where would consumer capitalism be with out envy and greed? How would politics survive without lust, anger, greed, and, oh yes, pride? For sloth and gluttony God gave us cable and satellite TV, and of course, The Internet!
The problem in the Genesis story is not the fact that they ate the fruit. The problem is that they believed the big lie – which is, eat this and you will be like God. To believe this is to forget who we are and whose we are in the first place: God’s.
That is, we are already created, we are told, “in the image of God.” In theological terms we call this imago Dei. The idea is had they not believed the lie they would not have eaten the fruit which, we recall, God had told them not to eat. Why? It is like your mother or father saying, “Don’t go across the street by yourself.” God was simply protecting those he loved from the believing the big lie.
Fast forward to Jesus and it is the same scene all over again, except Jesus had just been inoculated. At his Baptism he had heard God say, “You are my beloved. I am well pleased with you.” This was for Jesus, and is meant to be for us, the equivalent of, “Do not cross the street by yourself.” In fact, it really says, “Don’t cross the street at all…remain on my side, God’s side.”
Now we might as well admit that the sort of temptations set out are not all that different from the ones that face us every day: who wouldn’t want to wave a hand and turn things like stones into bread or gold or derivative securities if that’s your thing; who wouldn’t want to leap from tall buildings, be more powerful than a locomotive and faster than a speeding bullet; who wouldn’t want to be king or queen of the earth?!?
Fortunately we have Jesus who reminds Satan and all of us who care to “listen to him,” as we were instructed last Sunday, that there is only one king of the earth, one all powerful being, and only one source of bread for life – the Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus. The result being that we are relieved of all such duties, and ought to be suspicious of all who claim to be the appointed representative of the same God, let alone be tempted to elect them into political office to carry out what such self-appointed guardians believe to be “God’s Plan.”
We might be clever enough to note that Jesus uses the spiritual disciplines our Book of Common Prayer urges us to adopt in Lent: self-examination and repentance; prayer, fasting and self-denial; and reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. Up front and at the core is to be aware of our continual need to renew our repentance and faith.
Repent means to turn. Every time we find ourselves believing the Big Lie, forgetting who we are and whose we are – God’s Beloved – we need to turn back and remember. Every time we find ourselves caught up in the trappings and traps of envy, greed, gluttony, pride, lust, sloth and anger we better be ready to repent and return to the Lord.
God does not want us to cross the street because God loves us and does not like to see us get hurt – yet, getting hurt is often what we do best. This is why the church exists at all – to be that place where we come to listen to Jesus and remind one another who we are and whose we are- God’s Beloved People.
The Church is meant to be a sort of hospital where we bind up one another’s wounds and get back on our feet and on our way – God’s Way. When we buy into The Big Lie, however, we use the Church to hurt others and one another, even though we must know just how it grieves God to see us devolve into wounding dysfunction rather than being a source of healing and reconciliation.
Between the spiritual disciplines Jesus examples, and listening to him, we just might remind one another not to cross the street – for God cannot be responsible for what happens to us when we cross over to the other side. That would put us in the hands of “the other guy,” and few of us if any of us want to go there, because he is the originator of The Big Lie.
And one thing we know for sure. The minute we believe The Big Lie all Hell breaks loose!