Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
12:00pm Fellowship
Pastor Rev. Brooke Newell
Secretary Donna McDonald
315-265-7474

What Tempts You?

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

March 9:

Call:    Genesis 2: 15-17;  3: 1-7
Text:    Matthew 4: 1- 11
Prayer:  "Lent"   (268)
Psalm:   Psalm 32

            What Tempts You?

Donuts, and cookies, and Snickers bars
These tempt me much, much more                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            than fancy clothes and flashy cars.

That is my initial   light hearted, but honest  answer to
   The question in the message title
      A question that alerts us to the fact
that we will be spending our time this morning with
         Tempters and temptresses
and most importantly,     as a part of "The Tempted"

Playing the part of the tempters and temptresses are:
   The serpent and Eve in our call and Satan in our text

Playing the part of "The Tempted" are:
   Adam and (again) Eve,   in the call
Jesus             in the text
and   us (you and I)       in life.

Oh, every week we get together and we pray
"Lead me not into temptation"

But Jesus was a realist who understood human beings
   And thus our prayer does not stop there.
   It continues with a second part of the same thought.
This second part does not begin
With the conjunction "and"
- as I used to think it should -

It begins instead
with the conjunction "but"
which I used to question -

[Sometimes I wonder
how amused Jesus was that Jim Barnes thought he should  edit The Lord's Prayer.
I certainly hope he was amused and not angered.]

But be that as it may,
   This second part of this thought is not
      "and"    deliver me from evil

   This second part is
      "but" deliver me from evil

Jesus' choice of conjunctions implicitly recognizes
   That all human beings will be tempted

And thus our prayer is
   Lead me not into temptation
   But when I encounter it and experience it
guide me away from my temptations
by delivering me from evil.

Our story from Matthew
(a traditional Lent opening scripture)
   is about Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness
      and his temptation by Satan at the end of that time.

But temptation goes back long, long before that
For in chapters 2 and 3 of Genesis
   We learn the story of Adam and Eve.
Later in the OT we hear about David

In the creation story
   God rests at the end, surveys what has been created
      And declares it - including human beings
"very good."

Adam and Eve were part of that creation
   And God declared them "very good."
And yet they fell into temptation.
   And ate the fruit    That God had told them not to eat.

David is - to this day - considered the greatest king of Israel.
God specifically selected him, anointed him, and guided him
And God's own son traces his human lineage back to David

And yet David dramatically fell into temptation.
   By his dalliance with Bathsheba
   And his attempt to cover it up by having Uriah killed.

If Adam, Eve, and David could fall into temptation
   How could any of us believe that we are immune?

But Jesus shows us that we can resist and reject temptation,
For although tempted,   he did not succumb to his temptation.

This is his story:      [Matthew 4: 1-11]

Unfortunately, we have a tendency to read this story as observers
   Certainly observers with rooting interests - but still observers

We become observers because you and I cannot relate to
Turning rocks into bread
you and I cannot relate to
leaping from a steeple, counting on angels to catch us
   you and I cannot relate to
      ruling all the land and all the people for miles around

and it makes us observers because
   you and I cannot relate to being called   "Son of God"

Thus the story becomes to us a story about Jesus
   But not about us.

We are observers, spectators, and audience
   But we do not see ourselves in the story.

But we can and we should.
   We can easily find ourselves in this story.

Think about the first temptation:   food and nourishment
   Not something trivial, but something that Jesus needed.
   It was not like offering a well fed me
      Donuts, cookies, and Snickers bars
         (I like them, but I do not need them)
   Or offering Adam and Eve an apple (or whatever fruit)
      While they lived in a bountiful garden

Jesus had fasted for days
He was hungry;      he was famished;    he needed nourishment
   And now Satan offered him bread
   By urging him to command the stones to become bread

You and I are tempted when we need something
   Food, clothing, a house, money to pay our debts
      Or buy Christmas presents for our family

In fact, you and I are often tempted when we just want something
But Jesus rejected Satan's suggestion
and instead gave priority  to God and to God's words

Then Satan made another second attempt
   The second temptation was fame

We know the names of
Harry Houdini and David Blaine,
Charles Lindberg and Neil Armstrong
   People who achieved fame by their daring.

Can you imagine the fame of one
who threw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple
and was caught by angels?

Yes, you and I can be tempted by fame
   Even though our daring may not equal Houdini or Armstrong

But Jesus again rejected Satan's suggestion
   Refusing to test God to achieve such fame

The third temptation was an offer of power
   Satan offered Jesus dominion over all he could see - in exchange for worshipping him

And most of us - if not all of us - can be tempted by power.

But Jesus told Satan to go away
   For he would only worship God, the Father and creator

When we break these temptations down,
   We see how we can - and have been - a part of the story
      Despite our lack of divinity

For when we are offered things we need (or a person we love needs)
   We are tempted to sell out what God has commanded

And   too we are tempted to greatly to expand our definition of "need"
      Turning "wants" into "needs" so we can justify them

When we are offered fame
   We are tempted
   For the idea of being famous
can blot out God's instructions to us.
   And feeds our human egos
      Rather than our sense of belonging to God.

When we are offered power
   We are tempted
      Often justifying our acceptance of it
"so we can help others"
      And then using it to indulge ourselves
           and developing the arrogance that comes with power

I believe that we are all good people
In fact, I believe that God would look at us and say,
"very good"    like God said about Adam and Eve

But I also believe that now that we have disposed of
The specific examples in the Matthew scripture
   (the 40 days in the wilderness, the temple pinnacle, and the high mountain)
you and I can relate to all three temptations
      and   not only relate to them
but also that many of us have fallen victim
to one or more of them
            At some point in our lives
And thus once we see ourselves as participants in the story
We can understand that we too can avoid the temptations
   The same way that Jesus did
      By taking God and God's instructions seriously.
         For we don't live by bread alone
            But by God's words
         we should not put God to the test
      and   we need to worship and obey only God

This is a lesson that propels us into the season we call Lent
   And enables us to get the most out of the season.