Monday, February 29, 2016

If, If, If This, Then What?

Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA
14 Feb. 2016, Lent 1 Year C: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13

"If...If...If..." Satan says to Jesus.
If Jesus does this, then what will happen?
Notice: Satan's understanding of Jesus is “iffy”.
“If you are the Son of God, end your hunger.”
Jesus responds differently than Satan expects of a starving human. When we are starving, food to survive is our focus, notes Katerina Whitney,1 whom some of you recall speaking at our ECW gathering in Tifton a few years ago.
She emphasizes that in the wilderness, Jesus feeds on God's word that dwells within him, words of scripture he learned attending Sabbath worship regularly, as our Gospel three Sundays ago reminded us.
For his next “iffy” proposal, Satan says: “I'll give you great power IF you do what I demand.” How many humans would leap at this offer to be in charge?2 Jesus refuses the power evil offers.
In his last “iffy” effort with Jesus in the wilderness, Satan says literally make a leap of faith to prove yourself: "If you are God's Son, put yourself in harm's way.”
How ironic it is that Satan seeks the Truth.
Notice: Our Gospel says Jesus was tempted during the 40 days. These are not the only temptations. How else has Satan tempted Jesus before today's encounter?
ow subtle has evil been in Jesus' wilderness experience?
Think of the subtle temptation that flirts with you
on the television &
internet ads that pop up on your email, ads that blend with your recent searches & purchases.3
Satan's testing, his prying into how Jesus thinks, is like a hacker trying to get the right code to hack into your inner life & steal what is vital to control your assets.
To each of this wilderness hacker's “iffy” enticements Jesus relies on what he has seen & read in God's word. Notice how the power of evil adapts to this after Jesus' 1st two responses. Evil uses God's words from holy scripture that we read in Psalm 91:11-12 “...he shall give his angels charge over you, * to keep you in all your ways. / They shall bear you in their hands, * lest you dash your foot against a stone.”
Remember: What we hear today are evil's last temptations for the time being. Evil departs from Jesus “until an opportune time”. Think about how Jesus responds to Peter in Matthew 204 when he tells the disciples he has to go to Jerusalem, suffer & die. Peter says: “No way!” Jesus hears the tempter & says: “Go away, Satan!”
Temptations are often subtle.
What do you notice in Jesus' 1st response to Satan's “iffy” offer? Jesus says: “One does not live by bread alone.” This event in Matthew's Gospel includes the rest of this quotation from Deuteronomy 8:3: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord,” as Katerina Whitley notes in her sermon.
This 2nd part of the scripture Jesus quotes points to how vital it is for us to delve into scripture. Delving into scripture helps guide us so that, as Paul says to the Romans: "The word is near you, on your lips & in your heart".
Temptations come & go, AND return.
We know this from experience & from today's Gospel. Studying scripture, knowing scripture strengthens us to recognize & to face down temptations.
Our dedicated adult Bible study group delves into scripture Sunday by Sunday. These beloved children of God offer welcome & a place at the discussion table.
I challenge you in this Holy season of Lent to delve deeper into scripture because temptations are not “iffy”. How we live is not a matter of “if” temptations come but “when” they come. This Lent let us ponder: If This, Then What do I do?
How do we – how do you – respond
when temptation calls every so gently with
its “iffy” proposition?

Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Juntos en el camino con Cristo: siete meditaciones bíblicas. Cincinnati:¡Adelante! Forward Movement. 2014.
Whitley, Katerina. “Driven by the Spirit”. Accessed: 10 Feb. 2016. delante

1 Whitley, Katerina. “Driven by the Spirit”. Accessed: 10 Feb. 2016.
2 Idea from Ibid.
3 Juntos en el camino con Cristo: siete meditaciones bíblicas. P. 5.

4 Idea stated by Whitley.

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