We are beginning Lent with temptations, per usual. And as all well known passages, it’s a tricky one to preach on.
I fully believe that part of Jesus being fully human means that he was actually tempted by these offers from the devil. He actually does want to eat bread, or die, or rule the world. These are all very different scenarios, but the one thing they have in common is that Jesus is very lonely. He is alone in the desert and has nothing to nourish him, no food, no friends, no power. He is cut off.
Most of us know what it is like to feel completely cut off from God. Jesus has two explicit stories where we see his humanity at work (maybe three if you count the getting lost by your parents story, which I think is so stereotypical). This one, and on Good Friday when Jesus feels alone on the cross. Like I said, I fully believe Jesus experienced this loneliness, because all of us humans feel cut off from God at one point or another.
Do not ask me how Jesus can be fully God and feel abandoned by God, because I have no idea how he pulled it off.
But I do know that Jesus was definitely fully human when he felt abandoned by God.
We are so tempted when we feel abandoned by God, it’s so tempting to go for the quick fixes. Here consume this and you will feel amazing, take control of things that will fix things, and perhaps the hardest temptation: hurt yourself, that’s the solution.
In one story we get to see how consumerism, power and self-harm are all quick fixes that humans try to get solutions.
Jesus and the Holy Spirit, however, are in it for the long haul. Refusing miracles or feel good moments, they walk the hard lonely walk of forty days, doing the work of the journey that needs to happen before Jesus’s ministry can even begin.
Jesus is experiencing the reality that some things can’t be fixed. Sometimes there is no solution, except to walk and spend together. It’s another version of the story of Job.
Emily McDowell has a great line of greeting cards that address situations in which there is no solution.
Instead of platitudes or quick solutions of “Just consume this and all your problems will be solved” or “Everything happens for a reason” or “When God shuts a door he opens a window.
She has cards that say say
“I Promise I’ll Never Refer to Your Illness as a ‘Journey'”
“I’m Really Sorry I Haven’t Been in Touch, I Didn’t Know What to Say”
“There’s No Good Card For This”
Jesus is in a “There’s No Good Card For This Situation.” He is going to have to journey all across Israel for three years, he will preach til his voice gives out, heal people until he wants to live in the middle of a lake, and threatened to be stoned, thrown off the cliff and eventually he will be put to death in the manner of a heretic: crucifixion.
I’m not sure why this is the solution but in order to do/experience/endure all of this, he has to go into the desert for forty days with the Holy Spirit.
There is no good card for this.
But Jesus did do it! He lived it, he experienced it, he endured it so that we never have to do any of the worst situations in our lives alone. Jesus did it, so he can walk with us while we are doing, and though there is no quick fix, the very presence of God as we make this Lenten journey, especially since we know how it will all end, is holy.
Prayers with you as you start this season of Lent, let us know where your sermon is leading you this week.
Katy Stenta is a solo pastor at a tiny church that is bigger on the inside in Albany, NY for over eight years and blogs at firstname.lastname@example.org She is also the co-founder of the fledgling TrailPraisers inclusive Worship. When she is not dreaming up projects and ideas, some of which creep into the church, she plays with her three boys-boys or goes and visits her husband at the library, while he works, to read.
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