Posts Tagged ‘Satan’

Will I Survive This 3-10-19

In this sermon, taken from Luke 4:1-13, I explore the 40 days of temptation that Jesus endured in the wilderness.
(note that due to a cancellation of speaker, I filled in with preaching this morning. I’ve used this sermon before, though have made changes this time around. As such, this may seem familiar).

You can listen to the audio of this sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/will-i-survive-this-3-10-19

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

May the grace and peace of our Triune God be yours, now and forever. Amen.

I’m going to share a fact with you…now this fact should not be shocking to anyone…and yet, I think it might shocking when we stop and consider that the millennium…Y2K, the beginning of the 21st century…whatever ever we want to call it…it was almost 20 years ago. (Pause) Think about that…and think about how vastly different things are now than they were back then.

One of the things that has changed so dramatically is the state of television…the bulk of tv shows, especially primetime shows were scripted back then…but in the year 2000, a new show came on that helped usher in the age of reality tv that we are so familiar with today…that show was Survivor…and the premise of this show, still running and in its 38th season by the way…the premise, was quite simple…strand a bunch of people out in the middle of nowhere with hardly anything in terms of food and supplies…and see who can last the longest…and over the course of 40 days, let them gradually vote each other out of the game until there’s only one left and they are the sole survivor.

I was obsessed with this show for a while…I came into it a few years in and stuck with it up until a few years back when I finally realized that every season is pretty much the same thing over and over again…but as obsessed as I was with it, I never tried out for it…I knew better…but I always wondered just what I would look like if I managed to go the full 40 days…and so for a long time, each every year when Lent kicked in…and different people would talk about giving something up…I always said I was giving up shaving just so I could see what 40 days of beard would look like…side note, I’ve never made it…16 days was longest I’ve ever managed…so I think its safe to say that if I can’t even make it 40 days without shaving…I certainly would fail to survive the actual experience…and some else would win the title of sole survivor.

That being said…if there’s anyone who might just be able to endure the various hardships of 40 days in the middle of nowhere…with no supplies…no food…I guess today’s story shows us that Jesus might just make a pretty decent Survivor contestant.

Today, as we do on the first Sunday of Lent every year, we feature the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness…40 days…and Luke tells us that this wasn’t simply 40 days of fasting followed by 3 quick temptations…rather Luke tells us that the entire 40 days was filled with temptations…Jesus is out there alone for whatever reason…and Satan puts him through the ringer…and I’ve often wondered if there were moments during that time when Jesus asked the question “Will I survive this?”

(pause) If you’re the son of God…turn these stones to bread. (pause) All the kingdoms of the world…I can give them to you…and all the glory that comes with it…if you’ll worship me. (pause) If you’re the son of God, throw yourself down from the temple…and he’ll send his angels to protect you. (pause)

We’re familiar with the 3 temptations aren’t we… we know how they go…and we know how Jesus resists…by quoting scripture… though interestingly enough…Satan uses the same tactic on him. (pause)

But what interests me a little more is the way that things keep ramping up. With every passing temptation, Satan turns the screws a little bit more…taking up the intensity…and perhaps…the cost…Turn these stones into bread…You’re hungry…I can see that…in this first temptation…Satan uses physical need…something that we’ll all fall to…and as human Jesus was prone to this physical need as well…but the temptation is not in the hunger…the temptation is to use the power of God that lies with him…to twist God’s creation…that’s the cost here…it may seem minimal…it’ll only cost a couple of stones…and yet, to do so…that would mean that God’s creation isn’t good enough for him. (pause)

Well what about temptation number two?  Satan shows off the kingdoms of the world…and reveals that, for the time being anyway, he holds dominion in this world…and he can give the power to anyone he chooses…and all Jesus has to do is ask. (Pause) So what’s the temptation here? Seems to be the desire for power…or advancement or glory here on earth…and we can probably relate to that can’t we?  But then what’s the cost here? Well once again, it seems to be the idea that what God intended us to be, isn’t good enough…that we want more than what we already have…that our pride craves the power that this world can offer…instead of being content with what we are given. (pause)

Well now what about number 3? When Satan hauls Jesus off to Jerusalem and sets him on the top of the temple…Hey son of God…jump off…because if you are REALLY who you say you are…then God’s not let anything happen to you…If he REALLY loves you like you say, then he’ll protect you…go ahead…prove it.

What’s the cost? Seems to be forcing God’s hand…demanding divine intervention to prove something…and ironically, it would simply be proving something that not only Jesus already knows…but that Satan already knows as well…and so what good would that do? (pause)

These are the temptations that Jesus faces while he’s in the wilderness, just trying to physically survive…and its funny how Satan targets us when we’re weak just as Jesus was weak with hunger…but then he hits us when we’re strong…like when Jesus resisted the previous temptation… he’s a crafty one…he doesn’t just tempt us when we seem susceptible…he’s tempting us all the time…and if we look at the rest of Jesus’ ministry…the rest of the story right up until his death…the temptation continues…its even in the same form…it just comes from a slightly different source.

Turn these stones into bread…meet the physical need that humanity shares…temptation number 1…now think of what happened after Jesus fed a crowd of 5000 people with a few loaves and fish…they kept hounding him…so much so that he scolded them saying “you’re not following because of the sign…but because you ate your fill and now you’re hungry again…Jesus…meet our need. (pause)

All the kingdoms of the world I will give to you…take the power of the world…temptation number 2…and now think of the Jewish notion of the Messiah…the great earthly ruler who would reestablish the throne of Israel…who would cast out the Romans and place Judah at the head of all nations…Jesus…take power…and elevate us with you. (pause)

If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down…use your divine influence to save yourself…temptation number 3…which if you recall, happens in Jerusalem…the same place where Jesus hangs from a cross and hears people taunting “If you are the Messiah save yourself…come down from there…if you are able.” (pause)

Its been suggested that these three temptations were only foreshadowing to the temptations that Jesus would constantly face during his ministry…right up to the moment when he dies on the cross…and there might just be some merit to that if we consider it…what’s a little odd about this suggestion, is that it seems to turn the temptation of Christ into a parable of sorts…and while I don’t think that the 40 days in the wilderness was a made up story to prove a point, the notion does give us something to think about.

Because if it was a parable…then we need to ask ourselves the normal parable question of who are we?  Initially, we might think that we fit in with Jesus…because in our day to day lives we face temptation…but then as we see Jesus overcome temptation after temptation…and we know that we would never survive it…I think that rules us out of the Jesus connection pretty quickly…

And so…who’s left? Who’s the only other character there during the 40 days? (pause) The temptor…So just what is that telling us? Well, maybe on one hand it reminds us that we can be the source of temptation, both for others as well as for ourselves…and maybe in anther manner of thinking we’re just like those who tempted Jesus during his ministry…feed us…take the earthly power and share it with us…or prove to us that you are God. Prove to us that you are who you say you are. (pause)
Maybe there’s a little bit of truth here…maybe we see that the one that Jesus had to overcome is us…and while that might give us just a bit of pause to consider…isn’t it true that God became human and entered into our flawed reality to overcome that which we are powerless to overcome on our own?

Didn’t Jesus live and die and rise again to overcome the power of sin and death that resides within each and every one of us? Didn’t Jesus come to overpower that which we are unable to survive on our own? That darkness that resides right here…that darkness that we love and cling to…and yet hate it and hide it at the same time…we tuck it away, down deep inside us where no one can see it.

That is what Jesus came to overcome…that darkness that will continue to gather through this season of Lent…centering around Jesus until the moment that our darkness kills him.

We walk through this dark season right up to the cross, recognizing that Jesus could have saved himself…he could have let this cup pass…that he could have ended it…but that he loves us so much that he did it anyway…even though our temptations and our brokenness is too much for him to survive…because sin…brings…death.

But God…goes…farther…When Good Friday rolls around we’ll remember, once again…that Jesus died…because that work of God…that work of Christ…it is already finished…and Easter has already happened…and Christ has already walked out that tomb…it has already happened…and the good news that we find on this dark day, here at the beginning of this dark season…is that the temptations that Satan throws our direction now…have already been overcome. Yes we still feel it…and yes we need to acknowledge it…that’s what this season is about…about recognizing that temptation is not something that I will survive…but thanks to the love of God, shown for each us through the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that temptation, has already been overcome.

I may be the problem…but God, has already given the solution. Amen.

Words Have Power 3-5-17

In this sermon, based on Matthew 4:1-11, I explore the temptation of Christ, and the power that is held in the different names used in the story.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/names-have-power-3-5-17

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Names are important…and far more than we realize…names have the tendency to mean something. (pause) For some of you long time attenders, this might sound a little familiar as I’ve shared it before…but I am fascinated by the meaning of names…and the idea that what we are called might mean something more than “the sound that comes out of my mouth to identify that person over there.”

Sometimes when I think about the names that parents have given to their children, I realize that both sides of the coin are in play. Some people just like the sound of a name and that’s why they choose it. Others pick names for their kids based on the meaning…based on what the name itself is supposed to indicate. And thinking along these lines, I did a little personal research into my own identity.

My given name is Scott Allen Dalen. Scott is a descriptor meaning literally from Scotland. Allen means either rock or handsome. And Dalen comes from Dale which is a clearing in the woods. So my name…Scott Allen Dalen means that I am a handsome rock in the midst of a clearing in the Scottish woods…Fascinating…If you’re curious about what your name might mean…a quick google search will tell you volumes. (pause)

Now I bring up names, because there are a lot of them being thrown around in today’s gospel lesson. It’s a familiar one…the temptation of Christ…one that we hear about every single year at this time…as the 40 days that Jesus is in the wilderness enduring various temptations seems quite reminiscent of the 40 dark days of the season of Lent, stretching out before us until the culmination with Christ dying on the cross just before Easter.

But before I jump into today’s story, a bit of logistics…the end of chapter 3 features the baptism of Jesus…and in the final two verses of that story, which we actually heard 2 months back at the beginning of Epiphany, the Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus, and the voice of God the Father identifies him as his own beloved son. (pause) And now, here as we pick up the story…the newly baptized Jesus is led by that same Spirit which just came upon him, out deeper into the wilderness.

We hear that Jesus fasts over the course of 40 days…and then…boom…Satan shows up and here comes the temptation. We hear about three of them…as the intensity and the apparent cost continues to ramp up. If you’re the son of God, command these stones to become bread. I know you’re hungry, you haven’t eaten in weeks…best to sacrifice this tiny bit of God’s creation in order to meet your physical need.

But Jesus isn’t havin it…and he quotes some scripture back at the devil…temptation number 1 being overcome…the tempter tries again…and he switches up his tactic…Hmmm Jesus quoted scripture…maybe I’ll do the same.  And he wiskes Jesus off to the top of the temple and tosses an obscure psalm at him.  If you are the son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written that God will send his angels to catch you and you’ll be unharmed…Might as well be saying “Hey, if you are who you say you are” or maybe “If what God has said about you is true” then why don’t you prove it. (pause) But Jesus tosses scripture back on that one as well…You shall not put the Lord your God to the test. (Pause)
Well fine…let’s try one more…and the devil thinks to himself…it seems that Jesus is trying to reconcile the world…to gather them all together under his banner…so lets try appealing to this mission…and so Jesus finds himself on a mountain looking at all the kingdoms of the world…and the promise that all of them will be given to him…if he’ll only forsake the first commandment, turning his back on God to worship the father of lies.  But once more, Jesus isn’t having it. Because the power of the world…which is the power that the devil has some control over…that’s not what God has in mind…and Jesus knows it, and so once more…scripture in the face of temptation…and finally this time, Jesus calls that wiley old liar by name. Away with you Satan. (long pause)

Now if you’ve been paying attention…maybe you’ve noticed that I’ve been throwing a lot of names around…especially one that anyone familiar with Saturday Night Live in the early 90’s would find familiar…who remembers Dana Carvey playing the church lady? (in the voice) Maybe…Satan?

Its interesting, how many different names are given out to that old bugger in this brief story…He’s called the devil…at one point the tempter…and finally Jesus calls him Satan…about the only name we’re missing at this point is Lucifer and we’d have all the bases covered wouldn’t we? (pause)
But now remember…names have meaning right? And each one of these does too.  Now to call him the tempter…that’s pretty much on the nose…pretty self explanatory…and as we’re hearing about the temptation of Christ, that’s a fitting one…so having acknowledged that one, we’ll leave it alone.

Next is the name that we hear the most, both in this passage, and I think probably within our regular day to day conversation whenever we find ourselves on the topic of evil or sin or temptation…and that name is the devil…now this name means the accuser or the liar, which might just be fitting…because we hear in this passage how he’s twisting scripture…how he’s lying about what he can give Jesus…so that one’s pretty fitting.

But the final one is perhaps the most important. Satan. Now Satan means the adversary…the one who is standing in opposition of what God is up to…and so calling the devil Satan…well that’s pretty spot on isn’t it…because clearly Old Scratch is working pretty hard in opposition of the mission that Jesus is up to…to bring about reconciliation between God and humanity…to repair the breach caused by the dark powers of sin and death…those powers that are present all the time in our existence, but perhaps seem even stronger now in this dark season of Lent…that season that will ultimately culminate in the death of Jesus to atone for the of all humanity.

And it would seem that Satan believes that if he can just trip up Jesus…even this one time…then he wins…and he’ll remain in power…he’ll hold onto whatever twisted authority has been granted to him…and that’s why he’s tempting Christ. (pause)

Now here’s the thing on that. We hear today, that once the third temptation is finished, Jesus tells Satan off…and Satan has to listen, which makes sense because Jesus is God the Son…and as much as he hates it, Satan knows who’s boss…but its also important to realize that temptation itself didn’t end here. It was ever present right up to the instant that Jesus breathed his last and died while he was hanging there on that cross.

And we see a lot of similarities between the temptation story here today and the passion coming up in 40 days. Today Jesus is hungry and is tempted….on the cross he’s thirsty.  Today he’s lifted up in Jerusalem, and on Good Friday he’s lifted up just outside the city, only that time he’s nailed to a piece of wood. Today, the devil offers him political authority, to draw all nations under his power…and on the cross he draws all people to himself…

And there’s one more similarity…in both cases…on both ends of this season…Jesus is mocked because of his name…because of his identity. If you are the Messiah, come down from there…save yourself if you can. If you’re the Messiah, prove it. (pause)  And today…if you are the Son of God…prove it. (pause)

Keep in mind that the temptation of Christ begins as soon as his baptism is over…as soon as he has been named as God’s son. We might do well to remember that in our lives, that our baptism doesn’t excuse us from temptation, only that it cleanses us from the resulting sin. (pause) But the truth of this whole situation, regardless of Satan twisting it or not…is that Jesus IS the Son of God…and because of this, his words ARE true.

And I’m drawn to the one name that Jesus gives to his tormentor today…Satan…adversary…one who is opposed to what God knows must happen…and Jesus calls one other person the very same thing later on in the gospel. At a certain point, Jesus has told his disciples that he would be betrayed and killed…and Peter rebukes him for it…and as a result, Jesus calls Peter…Satan…adversary…one who is opposed to what Jesus knows must happen.

Now if Peter can get in the way…Jesus’ most trusted disciple…the one that he will eventually place in charge of the church, I find myself wondering, do we get in the way? Or perhaps more importantly, what do we allow to get in the way?

In short, I’m posing the question, what tempts you? What lies get whispered in your ear that draw your attention away? What physical needs come up that draw us away…what desires…or maybe what insecurities?

Satan tries to trip Jesus by making him question if what God had said about him was true. If you are the son of God, prove it. Did God really say that about you? (pause) And I fear we come under the same attack…Does God truly forgive you? Does God really love you? Are you good enough…I know the truth…just like you do…and if everyone else knew, they’d never accept you. (pause)
Those are the lies that the adversary…the deceiver…the liar, whispers in our ears…and he’s a crafty one…but no matter what he tells us, he can’t overcome what God the Son has said about us…that we are made heirs of the promise…and that if the son calls you free then you are free indeed. (pause)

Let me make one important thing clear. When we hear the story of Jesus’ enduring temptation and overcoming it…this is not some moral obligation for us to follow. This is not giving us an example to live up to…its not telling us that if we simply pray hard enough, or quote enough scripture…or are pious enough that we can overcome temptation…so don’t think that. Because our human broken WILL fail us every time.

Rather, let this story be a reminder that names have power…and if you don’t believe what I’ve already said, remember that when Jesus calls him by name, calls Satan what he is…and then tells him to leave…Satan has to listen…because what Jesus says…Goes. And Jesus tells you…he promises you…that you have joined with him as an heir to the promise of the kingdom of Heaven.  You are a beloved Child of God…and nothing can take that away…not any failing on your part…not any lies that the devil throws your direction. You have that name and nothing, not even you…can get in the way of that being true. Amen

Will I Survive This 2-14-16

In this sermon, I explore the temptation of Jesus. This is the featured text for the first Sunday in Lent every year.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/will-i-survive-this-2-14-16

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sometimes it floors me when I think back to the Millennium…and I realize just how long its been since we entered the 21st century…16 years ago…and things are vastly different than they were back then. One of the things that has changed so dramatically is the state of television…the bulk of tv shows, especially primetime shows were scripted back then…but in the year 2000, a new show came on that helped usher in the age of reality tv that we are so familiar with today…that show was Survivor…and the premise of this show, still running and just about to begin its 32nd season by the way…the premise, was quite simple…strand a bunch of people out in the middle of no where with hardly anything in terms of food and supplies…and see who can last the longest…and over the course of 40 days, let them gradually vote each other out of the game until there’s only one left and they are the sole survivor.

I was obsessed with this show for a while…I came into it a few years in and stuck with it up until just a couple years ago when I finally realized that every season is pretty much the same thing over and over again…but as obsessed as I was with it, I never tried out for it…I knew better…but I always wondered just what I would look like if I managed to go the full 40 days…and so for a long time, each every year when Lent kicked in…and different people would talk about giving something up…I always said I was giving up shaving just so I could see what 40 days of beard would look like…side note, I’ve never made it…16 days was longest I’ve ever managed…so I think its safe to say that if I can’t even make it 40 days without shaving…I certainly would fail to survive the actual experience…and some else would win the title of sole survivor.

That beings said…if there’s anyone who might just be able to endure the various hardships of 40 days in the middle of nowhere…with no supplies…no food…I guess today’s story shows us that Jesus might just make a pretty decent contestant.

Today, as we do on the first Sunday of Lent every year, we feature the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness…40 days…and Luke tells us that this wasn’t simply 40 days of fasting followed by 3 quick temptations…rather Luke tells us that the entire 40 days was filled with temptations…Jesus is out there alone for whatever reason…and Satan puts him through the ringer…and I’ve often wondered if there were moments during that time when Jesus asked the question “Will I survive this?”

I thought a lot about Luke’s emphasis on the 40 days of temptation that Jesus endured…wondering if the three temptations listed were it and those three lasted the 40 days…or if there were a lot of other temptations and these were simply the 3 that we hear about…I wonder if like Matthew tells us, that Jesus was out there fasting and Satan thought that hunger was a pretty powerful temptation to hit him with at the end of all that…and in short we don’t really know…only that these three temptations happen…but all I do know…is that it’s a good thing that it wasn’t me out there…because judging at how quickly my stomach starts growling on a daily basis…Satan probably could have tripped me up with that whole stones into bread thing by about noon on the first day…much less going 40 days without food. (pause)
But Jesus doesn’t go for it does he…nor does he fall to the other listed temptations. (pause) If you’re the son of God…turn these stones to bread. (pause) All the kingdoms of the world…I can give them to you…and all the glory that comes with it…if you’ll worship me. (pause) If you’re the son of God, throw yourself down from the temple…and he’ll send his angels to protect you. (pause)

We’re familiar with the 3 temptations aren’t we…we hear this story from the different gospels every year…we know how they go…and we know how Jesus resists…by quoting scripture…by throwing the word of God in Satan’s face…though interestingly enough…Satan uses the same tactic on him…he’s a crafty one that Satan. (pause)

But what interest me a little more is the way that things keep ramping up. With every passing temptation, Satan turns the screws a little bit more…taking up the intensity…and perhaps…the cost…Turn these stones into bread…You’re hungry…I can see that…in this first temptation…Satan uses physical need…something that we’ll all fall to…and as human Jesus was prone to this physical need as well…but the temptation is not in the hunger…the temptation is to use the power of God that lies with him…to twist God’s creation…that’s the cost here…it may seem minimal…it’ll only cost a couple of stones…and yet, what’s really happening would be Jesus deciding that these stones that God made to be stones, should be something else…that God’s creation isn’t good enough for him.

Well what about temptation number two? Satan shows off the kingdoms of the world…and reveals that, for the time being anyway, he holds dominion in this world…and he can give the power to anyone he chooses…and all Jesus has to do is ask. (Pause) So what’s the temptation here? Seems to be the desire for power…or advancement or glory here on earth…and we can probably relate to that can’t we? But then what’s the cost here? Well once again, it seems to be the notion that what God intended us to be, isn’t good enough…that want more than what we already have…that our pride craves the power that this world can offer…instead of being content with what we are given. (pause)

Well now what about number 3? When Satan hauls Jesus off to Jerusalem and sets him on the top of the temple…Hey son of God…jump off…because if you are REALLY who you say you are…then God’s not let anything happen to you…If he REALLY loves you like you say, then he’ll protect you…go ahead…prove it.

And once again, what’s the cost here? Seems to be forcing God’s hand…demanding divine intervention to prove something…and ironically, it would simply be proving something that not only Jesus already knows…but that Satan already knows as well…and so what good would that do? (pause)

These are the temptations that Jesus faces while he’s in the wilderness, just trying to physically survive…and its funny how Satan targets us when we’re weak just as Jesus was weak with hunger…but then he hits us when we’re strong…like when Jesus resisted the previous temptation…because as I said, that Satan…he’s a crafty one…so crafty in fact that he doesn’t just tempt us when we seem susceptible…he’s tempting us all the time…and if we look at the rest of Jesus’ ministry…the rest of the story right up until his death…the temptation continues…its even in the same form…it just comes from a slightly different source.

Turn these stones into bread…meet the physical need that humanity shares…temptation number 1…now think of what happened after Jesus fed a crowd of 5000 people with a few loaves and fish…they kept hounding him…so much so that he scolded them saying “you’re not following because of the sign…but because you ate your fill and now you’re hungry again…Jesus…meet our need. (pause)

All the kingdoms of the world I will give to you…take the power of the world…temptation number 2…and now think of the Jewish notion of the Messiah…the great earthly ruler who would reestablish the throne of Israel…who would cast out the Romans and place Judah at the head of all nations…Jesus…take power…and elevate us with you. (pause)

If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down…use your divine influence to save yourself…temptation number 3…which if you recall, happens in Jerusalem…the same place where Jesus hangs from a cross and hears the taunts “If you are the Messiah save yourself…come down from there…if you are able.” (pause)

Some scholars have suggested that these three temptations were only foreshadowing to the temptations that Jesus would constantly face during his ministry…right up to the moment when he dies on the cross…and there might just be some merit to that if we consider it…what’s a little odd about this suggestion, is that it seems to turn the temptation of Christ into a parable of sorts…and while I don’t think that the 40 days in the wilderness was a made up story to prove a point, the notion does give us something to think about.

Because if it was a parable…then we need to ask ourselves the normal parable question of who are we? Initially, we might think that we fit in with Jesus…because in our day to day lives we face temptation…but then as we see Jesus overcome temptation after temptation…and we know that we would never survive it…I think that rules us out of the Jesus connection pretty quickly…

And so…who’s left? Who’s the only other character there during the 40 days? (pause) Satan…but if we’re somehow connected with Satan, then just what is that telling us? Well, maybe on one hand it reminds us that we can be the source of temptation, both for others as well as for ourselves…and maybe in anther manner of thinking we’re just like those who tempted Jesus during his ministry…feed us…take the earthly power and share it with us…or prove to us that you are God. Prove to us that you are who you say you are. (pause)
And so maybe, just maybe there’s a little bit of truth here…and if so then maybe we see that the one that Jesus had to overcome is us…and while that might give us just a bit of pause when we start thinking about…isn’t it true that God became human and entered into our flawed reality to overcome that which we are powerless to overcome on our own?

Didn’t Jesus live and die and rise again to overcome the power of sin and death that reside within each and every one of us? Didn’t Jesus come to overpower that which we are unable to survive on our own? That darkness that resides right here…that darkness that we love and cling to…and yet hate it and hide it at the same time…we tuck it away, down deep inside us where no one can see it…well no one except God…but we cling to it so tightly that we cannot be honest with ourselves…much less can we be in relationship with the one who made us in the first place.

That is what Jesus came to overcome…that darkness that will continue to gather through this season of Lent…amazingly enough centering around Jesus until the moment that our darkness kills him. But the amazing thing about all this is not that we blame ourselves…or that we hate ourselves…or that we get this image of an angry God who is so mad at us that he has to kill his own kid.

Rather, we walk through this dark season right up to the cross, recognizing that Jesus could have saved himself…he could have let this cup pass…that he could have ended it…but that he loves us so much that he did it anyway…even though our temptations are too much for him to survive…because sin…brings…death.

But God…goes…farther…Yes Jesus WILL die on Good Friday…or at least we’ll remember, once again…that he did…because that work of God…that work of Christ…it is already finished…and Easter has already happened…and Christ has already walked out that tomb…it has already happened…and the good news that we find on this dark day, here at the beginning of this dark season…is that the temptations that Satan throws our direction now…has already been overcome. Yes we still feel it…and yes we need to acknowledge it…that’s what this season is about…about recognizing that temptation is not something that I will survive…but thanks to the love of God, shown for each us through the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that temptation, has already been overcome.

I may be the problem…but God, has already given the solution. Amen.

Just Get Behind Me 3-1-15

This morning’s sermon is based on Mark 8:31-38. I explore the famous exchange between Jesus and Peter where we hear “Get behind me Satan.”

You can listen to audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/just-get-behind-me-3-1-15

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
Friday dawned as one of those perfect late winter days. It was cold to be sure, but there was no wind and the sky was clear. As the morning went on the sun got up in the air I found myself standing at various windows…just soaking up the sunshine.
Most of you have heard me express my extreme dislike for the winter season, but days like that almost make it okay…and the sunshine helps give me hope for spring which is right around the corner. (pause)
But…in what seems to be a trend…those beautiful sunny days always seem like they get interrupted by bad news…and the darkness of the world creeps into the glorious brightness of the day. (pause)
That happened Friday…right at lunch time…when social media broke the news that rocked the world for every single science fiction fan out there…Leonard Nimoy…the actor best known for playing the Vulcan Spock in Star Trek…was dead. (pause) Its weird…that the death of someone that I’ve never met…someone that I didn’t really know at all…would smack me like it did…and as I sat there thinking about the fact that Spock is dead…I admittedly starting thinking about the storyline of the character through the original television series as well as the 6 movies that featured the original cast.
And anyone out there that is a Star Trek fan knows that Spock is truly the Christ figure…both figuratively as well as literally in one case…for at the end of Star Trek 2, Spock makes a decision to sacrifice himself in order to repair the Enterprise and allow it to escape destruction…therefore saving all of his friends at the expense of his own life…but then, in order to complete the Christ comparison…in Star Trek 3…Spock is resurrected…alive once more. (pause)
But that’s a character…a fictitious alien in a popular, but equally fictitious story. Spock is not dead…because he was never real…the reality of this situation…saddening though it was for the science fiction realm…is that an actor lived a full life…and at the age of 83 died of complications resulting from COPD. A loss to be sure…but certainly not unexpected…and certainly not tragic. (pause)
And in a personal note…what gives me pause in this whole situation…was that I was more effected by this news than I was by some actual tragic news that broke earlier that morning…the news that an unidentified individual went on a killing spree across several communities in southern Missouri, before turning the gun on himself…resulting in the deaths of 9 people. (pause) Sure I was saddened when I read that news…and I said a quick prayer for those that were affected by it…but then I put that in the back of my mind and went on about my day…only to feel a stronger feeling of loss and sadness at the death of an actor a few hours later. (pause)
Now I’ll be the first to admit that my personal reaction to these two different bits of news that center around death was misguided. I pretty much disregarded the important one…and I dwelled on the understandable one…and the only sense I can make of my misguided reaction is to embrace the fact that I’m human…and I’m not perfect. (pause) And I share that trait with a certain character in today’s gospel lesson…Peter…ever the impulsive one…ever the one opening his mouth and promptly sticking his foot in it…ever the one making the bonehead comment.
And today is no different…in our story, which is a direct continuation of the story when Peter makes the ultimate confession of Jesus’ identity as messiah…he proceeds to spout off yet again. (pause) Now we don’t hear what Peter has to say…only that he’s listening to Jesus explain just what it truly means to be the Messiah…and Peter…is apparently flabbergasted.
It would seem that Peter’s got some preconceived notions about the Messiah…and understandably so. Because his perception is shaped by his history and by his culture…and there have been messiahs before…because in the Jewish culture…Messiah in the Hebrew, or Christ in the Greek simply means the anointed one of God…and they’ve got at least two major ones in their history…the first two kings of Israel…Saul and then David…both of these men were anointed…and the ongoing expectation for the people…Peter included…was that the long awaited Messiah was going to follow that same line…
They thought he’d come on the scene…and kick out whatever oppressive culture was in charge at the time…reestablish the throne of David and everything would be good to go. That’s what they thought…but now things are a little different…because Peter’s been following Jesus around for awhile.
And in the midst of this…Peter has seen just what old JC is capable of…he’s seen the miracles…he’s seen the healings…he’s seen the exorcisms…and Peter knows that Jesus has the power of God on his side…and so it would seem that Peter’s got this notion in his head that Jesus is gonna use that supernatural power and throw his proverbial beat down on the Romans…miraculously kicking their keisters right on outa here. (pause)
And now Jesus is teaching them something that seems to blow Peter’s expectations right out the window…and Peter’s not having it…period, end of story…and he thinks he justified to pull Jesus aside and set him straight…Peter…tries to tell Jesus what’s gonna happen…Peter…tries to take control of the situation…Peter, even though he means well…is trying to take over. (pause)
And now its Jesus who’s not having it… “Get…behind me Satan.” (pause) Woah. That’s pretty harsh isn’t it? Calling the one that would eventually take over as the head guy Satan…that seems a little extreme doesn’t it? (pause) Or is it precisely what needs to happen? (pause)
Because Peter’s got human ideas in mind…human notions that can be…and in all likelihood were shaped by selfish human desires…desires that can be…and in all likelihood were twisted by the lies of Satan to trip up Peter…and maybe…just maybe if Satan got really lucky…it would even trip up Jesus as well.
But Jesus doesn’t let that happen…because he’s got a bigger picture in mind…Jesus knows the truth of what it means to be God’s Messiah…he’s no ordinary king or prophet…he’s not just some great military leader that’s eventually going to throw a Biblical beat down on the Romans…the Messiah is here to establish something entirely different.
And so with this harsh statement to get behind me…Jesus isn’t just shutting down the lies of the enemy…but he’s also saving Peter from his error…he’s saving him from himself…and in the end…isn’t that really what he was here to do in the first place? (pause) Isn’t that where all of this is going? As we move through this dark season, we know where it ends…it ends with Jesus hanging on a cross…utterly forsaken…and ultimately…dead.
But here’s the difference between us and Peter…we know that there’s more to the story…we’ve got the benefit of hindsight…Peter didn’t…and so perhaps it comes as no great shock that as Jesus shares just what it truly means that he IS the Messiah…that this truth utterly blows Peter’s mind. (pause)
This truth, begins to show Peter just a little bit about the work that God was actually up to…the saving work through Jesus Christ…that ultimately will serve to save us from ourselves…and this is where we once again recognize our connection to Peter and the rest of the disciples…when we recognize our own limited understanding of just what’s really going on in the world…much less our understanding of what God is up to as he seeks to rectify it. (pause)
So maybe that statement…Get behind me…which at first glance seems so harsh…and so negative…maybe just maybe that statement is actually one uttered out of love…love for one that Jesus is trying to protect. This is the man that will take the cross for Peter…This is the man who will step out of the garden and be arrested in order to protect his followers…This is the man who calls himself the good shepherd…the one who will protect his flock…even from themselves.
This is the man who makes the ultimate sacrifice for someone else…even though we can’t begin to fathom what he’s really up to in the midst of it.
The world is a messed up place…there can be doubt of that…and on almost a daily occurrence we hear bad news…disasters…sickness…death…storms and earthquakes, tension and battles…bad news followed by bad news followed by bad news. We hear so much of it that perhaps, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’re becoming immune to it…just as I was hardly effected by the horrific news in Missouri on Friday…and I listened to the lie in the back of my mind that it didn’t affect me and so it didn’t really matter…well maybe, just maybe God wanted to save us from those lies too…to save us from ourselves.
And that’s what Jesus was really up to…that’s what being the Messiah really means…not that we should be subject to him…or that we need to get behind him out of some ambition on Jesus’ part…but we get behind him so that he can protect us…so that he can protect us from everything…even from ourselves…even, from those lies that we tell ourselves…those lies that say that death doesn’t matter…that suffering doesn’t matter…that the darkness in the world doesn’t matter as long as we’re okay at the moment.
And I believe that Jesus saves us from this because God knows that all that stuff does matter…and throughout all the darkness in the world, that which we recognize and that which we gloss over and forget about…the first being to mourn this reality is God…and through Jesus, God…is truly…doing something about it. (pause)
But…it doesn’t come without cost…and its going to cost Jesus his life…and as we see today…Peter is offended by this…he’s offended by the notion that the Lord would have to die…and maybe just maybe he’s offended by the idea that our perfect Lord would willingly die for someone that’s unworthy…but the remarkable thing about the gospel is that this is exactly what God choses to do…to die for the unworthy…because we’re unworthy, and yet in the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ God proves that he is will to do that which we find offensive in order to repair the breach between God and all of humankind…and it IS freely offered to EVERYONE, whether we like it or not…the remarkable yet utterly offensive nature of the gospel is that everyone gets it…even that troubled man that took lives on Friday…Jesus was willing to die for him…so that he could be protected from the darkness inside of him…
And if Jesus was willing to die for him…well then maybe…just maybe…he was willing to die for me…in order to protect me too. Amen.

One Big Wilderness 2-22-15

This morning’s sermon is based on Mark 1:9-15, and features the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness…always the featured story for the first Sunday of Lent. I explore the temptation and what it means for us.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/one-big-wilderness-2-22-15

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
This past week holds an interesting distinction for me…this week I had the opportunity to write 2 different sermons at home. First my sermon for Ash Wednesday which I wrote on Monday…and then since the kids were out of school on Friday, I wrote this one at home as well.
And as can sometimes be the case…I was stuck on this one for a pretty good chunk of the day…and so finally at one point I asked the kids “Hey guys…what should I preach about on Sunday?” Jack suggested that I just not do it…which was sort of tempting…but then Ava piped up with her idea… “Kittens.” (pause)
Now here’s the crazy thing…we never know what God is going to use to spark off an idea…but in this case…kittens was the spark. Because as I sat there thinking about the domesticated cat and their offspring, I was reminded of many instances where cats show their wild side. There have been the recent “dear kitten” commercials produced by Friskies…one of which involves the cat going all ninja crazy town on the dog…this in turn makes me think of our cat and her odd tendency to simply go off on Emily…you may pet me 3 time…no more…or I will bite you. (pause)
But finally, this got me thinking about an article that I had read not so long ago that named house cats…yes…house cats…as the single most dangerous, diverse, equal opportunity hunter in the world. Cats are responsible for the deaths of more birds and small animals than any other predator out there. (pause) And when I remembered that I realized that cats are the best representative of what today’s gospel lesson calls the wild beasts. (pause)
Now if today’s story sounds somewhat familiar, it should…this particular passage in Mark is highlighted three separate times within the first few months of the lectionary this year. We heard the first portion at the baptism of Jesus back in January…and we heard the final portion when Jesus proclaims that the kingdom has come near shortly after that when Jesus calls the first disciples…and now we hear it all again…simply because it also includes the temptation of Jesus…as this story happens to be the featured lesson for the first Sunday of Lent each and every year.
And why is that you ask? Is it because Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness and Lent is 40 days? Maybe. Is it a reminder that even Jesus endured dark times which serves as a reminder for this dark season? Again, maybe. Or maybe, in the long run there isn’t really a good explanation and we simply accept that every year at this time we’re going to hear the story of the temptation.
But now here’s the kicker…Mark, as we’ve discussed before is kind of stickler when it comes to detail…he just doesn’t include much of anything does he? And because of this…maybe that’s why we get the overlap of two other stories that we’ve already heard and focused on in the past 6 weeks…simply because the lectionary needed to add a little filler into the gospel lesson for the week.
In all honesty, if this week is supposed to cover the temptation in the wilderness…we could have stuck with the two verses in the middle…And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him…period…end of story. (pause)
That’s it? Really? Come on Mark…you gotta give us something…no details about the 3 temptations themselves…no back and forth verbal sparing with Satan…Jesus doesn’t endure and then bark an order to “Depart from me Satan!” (pause)
Seriously…the lack of anything even remotely resembling details of just what’s happening out there in the wilderness is devastating…once again we’ve got nothing to go on…All we know is that Satan’s there…and animals are there…and Jesus is there…and it was the prompting of the Spirit that got him there in the first place. (pause)
Oh hold on now…just a second here…anyone remember the last time we bumped something like this? I actually think it was the story of Jesus’ baptism a few weeks back…and in that instance it seems like I mentioned that since Mark says so little, we REALLY need to pay attention to what he does say.
And Mark tells us that immediately following his baptism…the Holy Spirit DROVE him into the wilderness…we could also say that the Spirit CAST HIM OUT into the wilderness…and I don’t know about you…but that seems pretty harsh…that the spirit of God got a little physical with Jesus, just as he himself would later get physical with demons…not to mention all the merchants and money changers in the temple…same deal…the Spirit…almost violently takes Jesus out of civilization and out into the wilderness.
And he’s not alone…because Satan’s there…instantly…right away…immediately following his baptism Jesus comes under fire…Jesus is subject to temptation…and its not limited to 3 different temptations…we don’t hear of three isolated things that Satan smacks ol’ JC with…no, Mark tells us that he is tempted for 40 days…apparently non-stop…and in the midst of all that…there’s dangerous animals around…this is no pleasant setting that Jesus finds himself in.
He’s in physical danger…and he’s in spiritual danger…and all of this at the whim of the Holy Spirit. (pause) And when we realize all that, perhaps it gives us a moment of pause…and the question creeps into our mind…wait a sec, the Spirit drove him out to where he was going to tempted…does that mean that God wanted Jesus tempted? And if so…does that mean that God wants us to be tempted? (pause)
Did anyone else go there? Or was it just me? Does anyone else hear this and squirm just a little bit…wondering just what in the heck we are supposed to take from this? (pause) Because surely we can start to see a lot of similarities here. Jesus was baptized…Jesus was tempted…and Jesus was in the wilderness…and in our lives…we experience a lot of the same stuff…because we live our lives in the midst of wilderness…perhaps not a physical one…but we certainly find ourselves in the midst of a spiritual wilderness within our regular lives don’t we? Times when we feel alone…or times when we feel surrounded by enemies…times when it feels like everything and everyone is a predator just waiting…stalking us…seeking to move in for the kill. (pause)
Does that sound familiar to anyone out there? I imagine so, because for many of you, I’m familiar with your stories…I know some of the things that you’re experiencing…some of the things that you are walking through…and perhaps it seems like there is no end in sight. (pause)
Now Jesus was in the wilderness 40 days…a month plus…and I’m guessing that in the midst of the temptations…in the midst of the testing that he endured at the hands of Satan, it probably seemed like there was no end in sight for him too. (pause)
And so once more, I beg the question…was this the will of God…for Jesus to be alone out there…for Jesus to be subject to the attacks of Satan…and if it was, does God intend the same for us? (pause) And my answer to that question…is no…because Jesus wasn’t alone was he?
And I’m not just talking about Satan or the animals…but I’m talking about the angels…throughout this entire ordeal, Jesus was…not…alone…and neither are we. (pause)
Now at this point I could say that we aren’t alone simply because Jesus faced temptation…not only facing it but overcoming it…and because of that we have a God who has experienced the same temptations we do…and while I believe that is true…that’s not what prompts me to say that we are not alone…
And its also not because Jesus had angels with him…because when we are in the midst of temptation…I’ve never looked around and seen a glimmering dude with wings and a halo backing me up…but yet I will still say it…we are not alone.
And I say this because of the mission of Jesus Christ…not just to endure temptation…not just to live and perform miracles…not to gain a following and then die on a cross…but the mission of Jesus Christ was to enable relationship. Remember that all of this happened at the prodding of the Spirit which had entered into him at his baptism…the Spirit of God was with Jesus throughout this ordeal…because in the Father Son and Holy Spirit we see that even God is in relationship and we remember that God desires us to be in that relationship as well…and not just between himself and us as individuals…but between us as fellow believers as well.
Not only did Jesus’ death and resurrection enable us to once again be in relationship with our heavenly father…the one who calls us his beloved child just as he called Jesus the beloved…but his death and resurrection also made it possible for us as sinful people to forgive the hurts that we cause one another and come into blessed relationship with one another.
This is fellowship…this is community…this is togetherness and remember even in the midst of the wilderness and temptation at the hands of Satan…Jesus experienced community. And take heart in knowing that this community is where we seek aid…where we seek support in those instances when we experience our own temptations in the midst of our day to day wilderness. (pause)
And so I’ll ask it one more time…does God intend for us to experience temptation in our wilderness? And I believe the answer to that question is no…but God is aware that we will experience it…and so He has provided us with the means to endure it…and in those times when we do fail…when we fall to temptation…he has also given us the means to hear the words of forgiveness…to hear the words of grace made possible through Jesus Christ…to know that our sin no longer holds sway over us…
And so…during this season of Lent…these 40 dark days that mirror the 40 days of darkness that Jesus endured in the wilderness…let us join together as a community…let us support one another and pray for one another…so that we too might be sustained…just as the angels sustained Jesus…and at the end of those 40 days, we will emerge into the glory of the resurrected Christ…who has made it possible for us to join in his victory over Satan. Amen.