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God is God and We Are Not

26 February 2023

Year A

Sermon By: Rev. Dr. Robin A. Reed, Rector

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

Psalm 32

Romans 5:12-19

Matthew 4:1-11

Sunday Cycle of Prayer

The Scottish Episcopal Church

Church of the Good Shepherd, Maitland

Holy Trinity Church, Melbourne

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

God is God, and we are not.

If today was a titled Sunday such as Pentecost, Trinity, or Transfiguration Sunday I have no doubt today would be called “Temptation Sunday”. Just four days ago we began our Lenten disciplines dealing with temptations outside worship and this morning temptation surrounds us in our worship today in the stories of Adam and Eve and Jesus in the desert.

“I can resist anything, said playwright, Oscar Wilde, except temptation.” You and I have read and heard the story of Adam, Eve, and the serpent many times. Yet, I wonder, how well do we really know the story? Our traditional understanding, which began with Renaissance artists, depicts Adam and Eve in the garden with an apple....assumes that the fruit eaten from the garden was an apple. but the Bible says Eve eats fruit, not an apple per se, from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

And the tempter in the Genesis story is a serpent, a crafty prideful serpent who tries to seduce Eve into becoming prideful with no need of God finding satisfaction in her own actions.

In reality some people blame EVE as the culprit for the world’s sin but BOTH Adam and Eve took a bite of the fruit because neither one of them, nor you and me can ultimately resist all temptations.

While Adam and Eve ate something forbidden, disobeying God’s command their underlying temptation was, and is, that they wanted to be God of their lives or at least powerful like God to be full of pride and to reject humility or deferring to God as God so they turned away from God

and went their own way.

Even if Adam and Eve, the first family, hadn’t tried to go their own way and turn away from God I have no doubt that someone, some long time ago would have done the honors to be human is to wrestle with pride..

All of us are are particularly vulnerable to temptation when we feel tired, manipulated or disconnected from God for whatever reasons.

In Lent, when we think about temptations, our focus usually zeroes in on what we have given up, coffee or chocolate or alcohol and it seems as if the very things we are trying to let go of appear even more frequently on our radar, in television ads, at social events, on grocery store shelves

all enticing us to break our brand new Lenten promises.We become fixated on what we cannot have and it can feel as if we see and hear about what we crave everywhere making it very difficult to say no to just one bite, one drink, one experience.

As Mark Twain once coined, There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable. Temptations, of course, vary in importance; the desire for chocolate or wine isn’t quite in the same league as the temptations Adam and Eve... and then Jesus faced...they faced a challenging tug of war between their pride and humility....between pride the desire to exalt themselves beyond their place in God’s creation and humility to be modest, grateful to God, recognizing God’s grace and mercy and taking their place in God’s order.

Our Gospel lesson this morning finds Jesus in the desert baptized by John in the Jordan River

led by the Spirit to the desert he has fasted for 40 days. Jesus is famished, vulnerable, weak

but his connection to God is strong. And so the tempter, Satan, appears with three daring taunts

challenging Jesus to give up his humility as a God-fearing Jewish Man, succumb to his own prideful desires, and sabotage God’s mission for him.

First of all Satan pokes at Jesus’ physical weakness and hunger, “if you’re hungry, turn a rock into bread –feed yourself!!” Quoting Deuteronomy 8: 3 Jesus rejects the tempter’s dare emphasizing the importance of his own place as God’s son, depending upon God and God alone to provide for his physical and spiritual food. Jesus knows Satan is testing not just his hunger but his very trust of God to provide. He will not co-opt God’s power to meet his own situational need but lean into his relationship with God, honoring God’s creation, recalling God’s words remembered in his own heart.

Then, taking Jesus up to the temple pinnacle Satan tries to dare Jesus a second time..

“If you want to really impress people and build a greater following jump off the top of the Temple.”

But Jesus knows Satan is daring him to use his God given powers for the wrong purpose, again. he has not come to perform stunts to entertain people he has come, and his time will come, to heal the lame and the sick and exorcise demons with his compassionate power. Again Jesus stands firm to the second dare demonstrating his respect for God, His father and his own role

knowing he had to stay in his lane and let God be in God’s lane reminding Satan of Deuteronomy 6:16 … Do not put God to the test....Satan. God has a plan we are not to test him but to trust God, God will save us.

Then Satan further ups the ante taking Jesus up a very high mountain showing him all the kingdoms of the world in their splendor inviting Jesus to let the whole world worship HIM.

But Jesus holds onto his place again he is humble, he is not trying to be live into his divine powers (although you and I know he could respond this way in all 3 taunts). Jesus knows his calling.... to be faithful, have humility, live out his mission one day at time, to give his very best and to depend upon God. So Jesus tells Satan to take a hike reminding Satan once more that God’s people and Jesus himself, are to worship God not Satan or his temptations.

These two stories reveal the struggle we all experience in life between being humble and being prideful. Pride is your greatest enemy, humility is your greatest friend, wrote theologian John Stott. And as we saw with both Adam and Eve and Jesus in the desert the Devil’s most effective tool is to appeal to your pride and my pride....(C.S. Lewis),

Adam and Eve, promised by the serpent that they would be like God surrendered to their pride. wanting more. But Jesus embodied humility by leaving heaven, coming to earth, and taking the form of a man. Jesus demonstrated an unfathomable humbling of himself and in the desert his humility was tested intensely. Jesus overcame his very human desires, his own temptations by knowing who and whose he was, recognizing and taking his own place, receiving God’s gifts to him and relying upon God: God’s Word. and timing to endure the temptations in the desert and later at the cross.

Just like Jesus, God calls us on our own journey to a place of humility to recognize God is God and we are not, to take our place in God’s plan as gifted but flawed, prideful but humble, sinful but forgiven human beings. Jesus calls us to worship God, only God not ourselves or what we create in our own images, our own idols, to trust and not test God to do our very best to listen and follow where God is calling us rather than us telling God where to go.

Take a moment and reflect what relationships and situations challenge your humility the most?

Perhaps it is when you nag your spouse or children or grandchildren to live their lives the way YOU think they should or you believe YOU have the answer to a problem and aren’t willing to hear others’ ideas or you are unwilling to hear another person’s story and just judge them. In these situations, our pride can easily come flooding in as we try to take control, turn our world in our own image and forget WHO is really in control.

Humanity’s greatest temptation from the very beginning of time the temptation underlying all temptations is that of pride to turn away from God, to try idolize our own lives, to save ourselves and forget that God is a God of presence, provision, and eternal protection giving us the gift of eternal life through the faithful ministry, death, and and resurrection of Jesus himself.

Adam and Eve fell prey to the greatest temptation to their pride and so do each of us in our own way but we are not God and we cannot be God for God is our creator powerful and skilled, merciful and filled with grace. And when we try to create an illusion of our own control we disconnect with the humility God calls us to and often end up being a prideful pain in the neck to others rather recognizing our human limitations and gifts God has given us.

As our Collect reads this morning our world assaults us with temptations and God comes mightily to save if we let God. So this week take time to recognize God as God in creation, your blessed relationships, and in this parish family and to reflect upon the temptations in life especially your own internal struggle with your pride and humility which pulls you away from listening, following, and taking your place in God’s plan. And remember God who loves us, prideful as we can be, calls us to humble ourselves and return to God.


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