the one about about temptation...
February 19, 2018, 12:00 AM

Sermon from February 18, 2018

Text: Mark 1: 9-15

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

So, as you heard this gospel reading this morning, how many of you had a slight case of déjà vu and you were trying to figure out why? There’s good reason – we’ve heard this text twice already. This is the third time we have looked into the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as told by St. Mark since December.

Whenever I read this part of Marks gospel, I’m always tempted to do something that I shouldn’t. We know Jesus is baptized, he hears a voice from heaven, and immediately he is forced out into the wilderness to be tempted.

All of that happens very quickly in Mark’s gospel, literally five verses. It happens so quickly because Mark is not as verbose as Matthew or Luke. Our temptation – my temptation – is to ‘fill in’ what Mark has apparently left out.

I think that can be dangerous – even though I’m tempted to do it and do fall victim to that temptation. We needn’t fill in what other gospels are trying to say; but it is hard to let the gospels themselves stand alone.

But, then I thought a little more – why is it that we have this temptation to fill in these words – especially as we read Mark’s gospel and as we begin this season of Lent.

I think about our world today and there is so much noise. There is so much noise that we cannot find comfort in the silence or the unfamiliar. One of my favorite movies, My Cousin Vinny, has a scene where Vinny cannot sleep at all in the cabin he and his girlfriend are given. It’s too quiet and when there is a strange sound – the sound of wild animals – he freaks out. Later in the movie he is sent to jail for contempt of court and the next scene is him smiling and sleeping peacefully as the jail riots around him. The noise brings him an amusing, if not familiar sort of peace.

I think – in many ways – we are all like that. With our reckless addiction to technology, the need to feel empty time, to always be busy with something – we have become frightened of the quiet. We’ve become fearful of the unknown.

We read verse 14 and we cannot stand to see nothing else explained. What are the temptations? What happened?

Why do we need to know? I feel at times, we have a desire to know because we want Jesus to be like us. Or, more accurately, we want to be like Jesus.

We know he’s tempted, but we want to know how his temptation took place. Did it look like what I’m going through? Is it similar to what I know a family member or friend is experiencing? Perhaps, if I can know the temptation, I can know that I too can get through this difficult time.

As much as we do this – even if we do this unknowingly – I want to tell y’all something. You. Are not. Like Jesus.

You’re not. I’m not. We are not.

As we begin this season of Lent we think a lot about temptations and fasting from those things that we know might not be the best for us. On Wednesday we heard Bishop Younan talk about how even today our technological gadgets have become more important in our lives than even food. Where we are more willing to fast from chocolates, Coke, or sweets than we are to fast from being connected to the online world at every moment of our life.

As we think about those temptations and how we can ‘overcome’ those desires, we at times will attempt to line ourselves right up there with Jesus. If he can do it, surely, I can too!

Except – I hate to break it to you – we aren’t God; Jesus is. Jesus is able to withstand those temptations – whatever they are in Mark’s gospel because of who he is. Jesus is able to stand firm in those moments because he is the messiah. He doesn’t need anyone else.

Yet, we cannot do this alone. We cannot endure the temptations of our lives, the lures of sin, the voices that speak in the silence and darkness by ourselves.

When we attempt to do that – just by ourselves, with no help – we can break. Where the end result can look like what happened in South Florida this past week. A broken individual lashing out in violent and horrific ways. There are other discussions to be had regarding these horrific events – serious and honest discussions to be had – but, we still find help and be the help for the broken.

We do not endure the temptations and the wilderness of our lives alone. We cannot do it. We are not capable of doing it.

We need the support of friends and family. We need the support of professional care workers – doctors, nurses, counselors, and more. We need help.

We want to fill the ‘empty’ and ‘unknown’ in our lives because we have been conditioned and taught through our culture that if you cannot do it alone then you’re not strong. You’re not good enough. You need to be like the other ‘normal’ people. Where in that knowledge we fill the empty, quiet, and unfamiliar of our lives with ‘stuff’ to distract us. All the while the gnawing hole in our life grows larger and no matter how much we throw into it, it is never satisfied.

We need others to help us through the temptations and the wildernesses of our lives. We need to reach out and ask for help. We need to remember that our God has created us to be with one another, to love, support, and care for each other. We are not little gods who can withstand the weight of the world.

But, we need our God, the one who has promised to share that weight and even bear it at times. We need to and we do see our God at work in the community of faith around us. We see God at work in the teachers and counselors who take notice and reach out. We see God at work in the friends and families of those dealing with harsh realities.

We begin this season of Lent and we hear a story about Jesus’ temptation. It’s a story that we know well, but at times can be perplexed by. Especially as it is told to us in Mark’s Gospel. We need to know what Jesus was tempted by so that we can feel confident to survive our own temptations.

Hoping beyond hope that if our Lord can ‘do it’ surely, we can get through it too. Yet, we fall. We fail when we try to go at it alone.

This season of Lent, what would it look like if we ‘gave up’ trying to ‘man up’ or ‘be strong’ when it comes to the hurt we have in our lives? What if we fasted and let go of the fear that holds us back from seeking help? What would the Lenten season teach us this year if we fasted the fear of what others would think if we cared for them in more direct ways?

As Bishop Younan stated from this very pulpit just a few days ago, our fast is wrapped up in the lives of others. By loving one another, we show that we are loving God. We love our neighbor as our love to God.

Love your neighbor. Love the stranger. Care for those around us.

Be in prayer – for others and for those hurting in the world – but, let those prayers lead our footsteps and actions. Let our prayers remind us that there are people who hurt – we hurt – but, that doesn’t mean we are alone. We are surrounded by a community called to love one another. To care. To forgive. To accept. Our Lord calls us all to that.

We cannot do it alone. We cannot stand idly by as those who hurt feel that the only way to ease that pain, to bring peace is to lash out violently and deadly. We must reach out within our own pain and loneliness to draw others in, to remind ourselves that we are not alone in our struggles.

This morning we hear a story about our Lord’s temptation in the desert. He went through it alone. We – thank God – do not have to because of what Christ has already done. You don’t have to be fearful of the silence and unknown. Let us draw one another in to that pain and temptation. Let us live into this season of Lent as a time to help and care and love those around us. You don’t have to do it alone. Amen.

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