Friends, one final homily from Pastor Dahl–enjoy! –Pastor Kathy
February 17, 2018
“Jesus was driven by the Spirit out into the wilderness.” I usually think of Jesus leading, guiding others. Here he is being moved by a force, as it were, greater than himself.
It can be difficult for a believer to think of Jesus as a human being, as a man. The Gospel account of his presentation in the temple when he was twelve says “the boy returned home with his parents where he grew in wisdom, age and grace.” He grew and therefore changed through stages of development, just as anyone does—physically, of course, but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
So here Jesus, after thirty years of life, is driven by the Spirit, is forced to endure the challenges that each of us face in our lives. It’s been said that humans who are blessed with full lives—that are not cut short in early years by illness, accidents, or warfare—go through two major stages of development. We spend the first half of our lives coming to figure out who we are, entering relationships, developing skills, seeking to create our lives. In the second half of life we can gain insight from the mistakes, the heartaches, the decisions good and bad of the first.
Is it possible that Jesus, driven into the desert, went through the transformation that it takes most of us a lifetime to undergo? The three temptations he faced confront us in varied but similar ways. We seek out pleasures of many kinds in order to discover what really matters in life. We seek power in one form or another, but often through jobs, income and status. We seek to create a reputation, a good name, perhaps even fame.
These challenges can leave us weary, and sometimes disappointed and hurt. At the end of his ordeal in the wilderness, today’s reading says angels ministered to Jesus. Have there been angels in your life who have ministered to you when you were at your lowest? I know there have been in mine.
When Jesus emerged from the wilderness, John the Baptist had been arrested. Jesus now replaced John. Enlightened and strengthened by the Spirit and having grown from dealing with the temptations that assailed him in the wilderness, Jesus now began his public service or ministry. He began by telling people about something wonderful, something truly worthy of their attention.
Along with the beauty of our created world, from the beginning humans have known deception and hurt, alienation and death, shame and fear.
The word “sin” is not commonly spoken of these days. We more commonly hear the words, “Mistakes were made.” Yet we live with our own repeated failings, with hurt done to us and hurt we have done and do to others. We live in a world with enormous injustice and suffering.
This is the world Jesus was living in, just as we do today. His message was not about sin. It was about life, forgiveness, hope and the Love of God that transforms our failings. The Law taught us that we cannot achieve holiness, oneness with God, by what we do, but by what He does for us—by accepting and surrendering to “the folly of the Cross.”
This may not make sense logically. But the fact is that the Law can’t get us where we want to go, or to become what we want to be. Only Grace can. Fr. Richard Rohr writes that low-level religion always reverts to the law, but St. Paul’s answer to every dilemma is not to try harder, but to surrender more. He wrote, “When I am weak, I am strong.” It’s not through my performance, (not through the Law,) but only through the Gift, only through Grace, that we are transformed. As members of Christ’s “Body” we are in a process of transformation by him–and always have been, whether we realized it or not. And it is not just an individual process.
We submit to death and resurrection because Jesus did. We are saved by grace and mercy. No need to count our good deeds. Life is worth living because it is going somewhere. It has a purpose. There’s a radical sense of safety and purpose amid the chaos and suffering.
This is what Jesus was announcing after he emerged from the wilderness: we are living in a time of fulfillment. Believe in this Good News; let it enter into your hearts and minds and change them.”
We experience gratefulness when something we value is given to us, a real gift, something we haven’t bought or earned. It might be forgiveness. It might be the love of another person. We can be grateful for the opportunity we are given in every moment. We miss this opportunity if we rush through the moment.
Open your eyes, your ears, each of your senses. Open your mind. There are so many things to be grateful for. Water, the miracle of reading, food that others have grown and produced and transported to us, and on and on. We can open our heart to the opportunity of the moment.
“Change your hearts and minds” says Jesus to us-– change your hearts and minds to believe the amazingly Good News, that you are loved as you are.
Lent is our opportunity to stop, be quiet, and listen. God does not love us if we change; God’s love enables us to change. Only love brings about inner transformation–not duress, guilt, shunning or social pressure.”
Pastor Kathy once said in a homily that if we were to take to heart this one thought during the 40 days of lent–the fact that we are loved–that would be enough. Or, as I once read on a friend’s Facebook wall: “I can’t brag about my love for God because I fail him daily, but I can brag about his love for me because it never fails.” Let us take time, repeatedly, to be aware of the gifts and the Gift in our lives. Joy to you this Lent!