By The Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
February 10, 2008
Read: Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 and Matthew 4:1-11
This morning we hear two very familiar stories…Adam and Eve with the serpent, eating the forbidden fruit. And Jesus in the wilderness being tempted by Satan. Temptation is a prominent theme.
But what about temptation? What about Satan? What about the serpent? It seems that the temptations we face are really the same temptation, to take charge..to take control and not let God be God. Or as the serpent put it, “don’t you know you’ll be like God”. Even the temptations of Jesus follow this pattern, and the only answer to them was to trust God’s word and promise and not one’s self.
Satan came to Jesus after he spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness. Jesus was led there by the Spirit. We begin Lent each year in the same way, with Jesus in the wilderness or in the desert. Led there by the Spirit. Being in the wilderness means that we are alone, with no distractions. A place where we might be able to look deep inside of ourselves to discover who we truly are. A place where we might acknowledge that there is a hollow, empty feeling inside us that we just can’t seem to fill. A place where we search for the healing and wholeness that comes from God, through Jesus Christ.
That is what Lent is about…a 40 day period where we commit to self-examination. Honest self-examination in the eyes of God. Because it is through knowing ourselves, deeply knowing who we are and what motivates us, that we are able to make better choices in our lives. Choices that lead us farther along in our mutual journey toward healing and wholeness with God.
There is currently a trend in our society about finding fulfillment and happiness. Books like The Secret, The Power of Attraction, and one woman’s search and journey for everything. “Eat, Pray, Love” is Elizabeth Gilbert’s story of a part of her journey in life, when after a divorce and depression, she gave up all outward marks of success. Her job, a home and set out on a journey to three different cultures. Italy, India and Indonesia. It was during her several month stay in India, in an Ashram, where she spent hours and hours in disciplined meditation. Elizabeth writes of her struggles to achieve a higher state of meditation because in the quiet stillness, with no distractions around, in her wilderness, she only had her own self to contemplate and she did not want to go there. It took hours and hours and wise advice before she finally allowed herself to face those parts of herself that she didn’t like. The bad choices she had made in her life and why. And when she was able to acknowledge those parts of her own self, she discovered God in a new and different way. She discovered an all powerful forgiveness and acceptance from God. It was the bringing up and naming of her demons that allowed a sense of release. Her experience has changed how she makes choices in her life now. When faced with temptations, it is the choice that becomes important, the action involved.
Many of us know, or have friends, or maybe even are, what we call “recovering addicts”. These friends get together in groups on a regular basis….what we know of us “anonymous” groups. Simply put the addiction in front of the word anonymous. And these friends – most of whom are Christian – are not freaks or monsters. They are simply human beings who have become painfully honest with their lives. They will tell you that they have made a series of bad choices and that those choices have impacted them and their families. In the wilderness of their lives, they have made the discovery that all is not well with their soul. And they come together from all walks of life because they are convinced that life was meant to be lived on a higher plane that what they’ve experienced.
These friends have finally broken the sad silence about their lives. Honest to God. And to self. And to family. These are friends who have finally rubbed some of the veneer off their soul and freely admit that they have tried to fill in the blank with the wrong things.
Pascal once said that inside of us there is a God-shaped vacuum. And recall Augustine’s famous prayer, “You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” Both of these sayings speak to the hollowness that we feel when God’s special place is filled with lesser gods.
If addiction is, at its core, anything we use to fill the empty place inside of us which belongs to God alone, then I wonder if maybe all of us or at least 99% of us are addicted to something. Food, fashion, accumulation, blaming, shopping, fitness, diet, the pursuit of happiness, even care-giving could fit the bill. Anything really. And so whenever that emptiness becomes unbearable, it’s quite easy to fill that emptiness with something other than God to numb the pain. Yet, as Augustine discovered, there is nothing on earth that can fill emptiness of the soul but God.
Jesus Christ is here to help us in the battle against sin and temptation, no matter what form it comes in. And when (notice I didn’t say “if”, but when) and when we succumb to sin and temptation…either in obvious ways or ways that are deep inside our hearts, God is here to shower his forgiveness on us. His forgiveness and his grace for the meeting of a new day, the grace to get up and move on making better choices in our lives and avoiding the bad choices.
Today we ask God to fill our ‘God shaped vacuum” with His love. So enter the wilderness. Expect great things from God, do great things for God, for with God all things are possible. And especially during the season of Lent……So we enter the wilderness, Amen.
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