Talking with the Devil


Luke 4:1-13

First Sunday in Lent   

What tempts you?  Scripture is full of stories of temptation.  Of course, it began with Adam, Eve, a talking serpent, and a fruit tree. Moving on, Cain murdered Abel.  Then there’s King David who gave in to his lust for Bathsheba. Joseph’s brothers sold him to strangers when they could not control their jealousy.  Although we don’t know exactly what was in his heart, Judas betrayed Jesus for silver.

What have you been tempted to do?  Did you actually do it?  Remember the last time you drove down the interstate and that guy pulled within an inch in front of you and didn’t even have on a turn signal?  We are tempted to put things off, to worry, to eat way too much at the pot luck meals, to spend too much money, and the list goes on.  Is there a person who tempts you?  Perhaps you become competitive with a particular person, or given to gossip, or maybe you are tempted to judge someone. Is there someone who draws you into behavior of which you are not proud?

Lent, which began this past Wednesday, invites us to look at these things that separate us from God. Those who came to church had ashes imposed on their foreheads, as the pastor invited them, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” These are the words God spoke to Adam after the infamous apple incident. “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return” [Genesis 3:19].

This dusty cross that marks us reminds us of our sin, our fragility and our death that will surely come.  The first cross that is traced on our foreheads was imposed during our baptism.  In that marking, God claimed us as God’s own child.  We were adopted as God’s beloved, with God’s promise that God will never let go of us.  That sooty cross does not negate our baptismal cross.  It is placed on top of it, and the promises of baptism remain foundational to who we are. Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return. + While we are God’s beloved, we will also die.

At Jesus’ baptism in the river Jordan, “the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved.’ [Luke 21b-22]. Despite God claiming Jesus as God’s precious child, it is God who brings Jesus to temptation.  Listen again:  “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.”

Jesus was told by God that he was God’s child and God loved him.  He was full of the Holy Spirit.  Yet God sent him to the wilderness.  This sounds like our story, too.  In the wilderness, you are uncertain if you will make your way through because it is a harsh land, and because the path is not clear.  You have been there.  You have been there waiting for the results of medical tests, and through the exhaustion for being a caregiver.  Wilderness surrounds us in the struggle with depression or drug addiction. It is a place where we hunger for wholeness, and question our worth.

Jesus had nothing to eat for 40 days when the devil tempted him.  “Ifyou are the Son of God,” the devil said, which is pretty funny because out of all those who encountered Jesus, the devil was most aware of Jesus’ identity.  “If you are, turn those stones into loaves of bread.”  God’s son should not be hungry!  Debie Thomas sees it this way:

In the devil’s economy, unmet desire is an unnecessary aberration, not an integral part of what it means to be human. In inviting Jesus to magically sate his hunger, the devil invites Jesus to deny the reality of the incarnation. To ‘cheat’ his way to satisfaction, instead of waiting, paying attention to his hunger, and leaning into God for its lasting fulfillment. Along the way, the devil encourages Jesus to disrespect and manipulate creation for his own satisfaction.  To turn what is not meant to be eaten—a stone—into an object he can exploit.  As if the stone has no intrinsic value, beauty, or goodness, apart from Jesus’ ability to possess and consume it.[1]

For what do you hunger? Sit with ashes in this season of Lent. Sit with our hunger, and learn from it. The challenge is not to let the devil talk us into satisfying ourselves instead of waiting and listening for God to nourish us.  The devil will try to convince us that God must not love us if we are walking in the wilderness and hungry.  The truth is that God leads us to discover that because we are God’s beloved, we can not only survive, but grow in faith and strength.

After tempting him with hunger, the devil offered Jesus power over the world if he would worship him. This authority was not the devil’s to give. Our ego wants the whole world to love us, but following the devil only leads to broken relationships and false ego.  The devil’s lies tell us that our worth comes through perishable attributes rather than being God’s child.  Listening to the devil encourages us to act out of our pain rather than love, and to forego compassion.

Lastly, the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem.  His suggested that Jesus throwhimself from the top of the temple, thereby testing God’s love for him. If God loves us, God will keep us safe.  This may be the devil’s most enticing and harmful lie.  We get cancer, lose jobs, and suffer losses that threaten to break us. We question our identity and forget who we are in the word and water of our baptism.  We forget that the cross of baptism forms us first as God’s beloved.

I want to share with you a poem that I came across a poem entitled, Beloved Is Where We Begin, authored by Jan Richardson.[2]

If you would enter

Into the wilderness,

Do not begin

Without a blessing.

 

Do not leave without hearing

Who you are:

Beloved,

Named by the One

Who has traveled this path

Before you.

 

Do not go without letting it echo

In your ears,

And if you find

It is hard

To let it into your heart,

Do not despair.

That is what

This journey is for.

 

I cannot promise

This blessing will free you

From danger,

From fear,

From hunger

Or thirst,

From the scorching

Of sun

Or the fall

Of the night.

 

But I can tell you

That on this path

There will be help.

 

I can tell you

That on this way

There will be rest.

 

I can tell you

That you will know

The strange graces

That come to our aid

Only on a road

Such as this,

That fly to meet us

Bearing comfort

And strength,

That come alongside us

For no other cause

Than to lean themselves

Toward our ear

And with their

Curious insistence

Whisper our name:

 

Beloved.

Beloved.

Beloved.

 

In the name of Christ, giver of all grace, Amen.

~Pastor Cheryl Ann Griffin

[1]Thomas, Debie.  “Human and Hungry.”  Journey With Jesus. Web accessed 3 March, 2019.

[2]http://paintedprayerbook.com/2016/02/11/lent-1-beloved-is-where-we-begin/


About Pastor Cheryl Griffin

Pastor Cheryl Ann Griffin thinks God has a sense of humor for leading her into ministry, but can’t imagine doing anything else! Pastor Griffin received her BA degree from the College of William and Mary. She worked as an accountant before God led her to the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, where she received her Master of Divinity degree. In the Virginia Synod, Pastor Griffin is a member of the Ministerium Team and frequently leads small groups at synod youth events. She is also a representative to the VA Synod Council.