Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sermon Lent 1 - March 9, 2014

Lent 1A
Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11
St Stephen Lutheran Church – The Rev. Maurice C. Frontz
9 March 2014

When we were taught to receive the Holy Communion,
we learned to receive the bread in one of two ways.
We either hold our hands out with one palm in another
or perhaps we open our mouths to have it placed on our tongues.
Both of these ways express a deep truth -
the truth of our dependence upon God.
Instead of reaching out to take the bread,
we wait upon someone to give it to us.
In some small way we are giving bodily expression
to what the faith teaches us:
that we don’t need to reach out for what we desire,
but that God will provide what we need.

In many ways, not just in how we receive communion,
we try to express this patience and trust,
especially during the season of Lent.
In Lent, we fast from the icons, the pictures, the statues
which remind us so powerfully of God’s mercy for us.
Instead they are veiled from our sight, draped in purple,
the color of de-oxygenated blood in the vein,
so that we might recall Christ’s suffering.
We fast from the ‘Alleluia’ in our worship,
expressing our trust that when life hands us suffering,
we will one day be able to shout our praises to God with full voice.
Many of us patiently endure Lenten fasts,
to imitate Christ’s forty days of a complete fast in the desert.
In some small way, a Lenten fast, even from some trivial thing,
reminds us that God provides even in the desert.
Even when we cannot have what we want,
God gives us everything we need,
and the greatest gift is himself.

Patience is the way we may live with God.
It is the opposite, impatience with God’s plan and God’s will,
into which our ancestors were tempted by the devil.

I often thought that in the story of Adam and Eve,
they were crazy to take the forbidden fruit,
for in Paradise they had everything they wanted!
Wrong. They didn’t have everything they wanted.
God had provided everything they needed,
but the serpent taught them to want more,
to want everything,
including what had been forbidden them in love.

The devil entices us into the idea
that God couldn’t possibly wish to forbid us anything
that looks and feels like it might be good for us.
He promises Adam and Eve that if they obey his voice,
rather than God’s voice,
all their desires will be fulfilled.
Unfortunately, this is not true.
God knows that once we stop trusting and start desiring, we never have enough.
All we need to do to understand this is watch a child who has all the toys he needs
go absolutely crazy when someone else has the toy he wants.

And so the impatient Adam and Eve
now live by their own desires,
rather than by God’s provision.
And aren’t we their children?
Aren’t we terribly impatient when our desires are frustrated?
Don’t we feel rewarded when we get something
and feel cheated when we don’t get something?
Don’t we believe that once we get the new phone,
the new product, the new possibility, the next thing,
we will at last be satisfied and secure?
Don’t we esteem the Word of God highly which works for our favor
and disregard the commands which conflict with what we want?
And finally, aren’t we happy when all is going well,
and unhappy when they are not?

At Jesus’ baptism he was proclaimed Son of God and Servant of God.
One might have expected immediate triumphs.
After all, if you have God’s favor,
if you were God himself,
you would well expect instant gratification,
the power to get whatever you wanted
and to do whatever you wanted.
You would be able to do some good in the world,
and you would receive all that was good in the world.

But instead, Jesus is sent into the desert,
to become like Adam and Eve,
to become like Israel in the wilderness,
to become like us,
who are subject to the temptation of desire.
In the desert of the world,
alone with our needy acquisitiveness,
our impatience and mistrust,
and with the voice of the tempter whispering in our ear,
none of us can stand.
But Jesus shows that he is who the Father said he was,
the Son and Servant of God.
Scorning the tempter,
he refuses to reach out and take what God alone can give,
and instead he waits upon the Father in faith and trust and hope.
He does this not for his own sake alone,
but also for us,
so that by his obedience we might be made righteous.

What are we to do then?
Are we to stop going to the grocery store to get the food we need,
and instead wait for God to drop it off at our front door
like some heavenly pizza delivery man?
Of course not.
We also are not to refuse the good things of the world when they do come to us.
After all, Jesus was called a ‘glutton and a drunkard.’

But we can try to recognize those areas in our lives
where we are not living by trust in God,
but instead are spending too much of our time and money
in pursuing things that we do not need.
What could we do for God and others
if more of our time and money were freed up
from our pursuit of the illusion of happiness?
What could this congregation do
if we were able to trust God more with our time and money?

We can also try to live less anxiously,
more at peace with those situations
which are ambiguous and frustrating,
when our bodies are ill, when our souls are in turmoil,
when we become impatient with others or ourselves,
and allow God to resolve these situations in his time and in his way.
Finally, we might try to begin to understand
that God ‘the Father will have the kingdom present
one small act at a time.’
When it seems that God’s rule is far away,
and we think if we don’t ‘help it along,’
it will never come,
we can wait in trust and hope
for that day beyond hope,
when there is no more sin, no more evil, no more death.

They had those bracelets a few years ago,
‘What would Jesus do?’
Jesus would wait in hope, trust, and obedience
for the Father to give him everything.
By the Spirit,
we may wait in that same hope, trust, and obedience,

for God to reveal the kingdom.