Sunday, February 25, 2007

Not over til the fat lady sings...

Luke 4: 1-13
Today's Gospel from Luke describes Satan's defeat in the desert... all three of his temptations coming down to the question of power and when to use it. It was not that Jesus never used his power to create bread out of nothing, He did it quite willingly and easily when five thousand hungry people were stranded with him in a deserted area. It was the when and how of power that the devil (and many of his disciples) did not understand.

In this passage, the devil and Jesus both quote scripture to each other, (a point that should not be lost on those of us looking for Bible-based reinforcement for our own fears and preferences.) But the crux of our celebrant's sermon this morning was from the ending of Luke's narrative: When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

This particular battle may have been over, but the war still raged. Satan had lost a skirmish, but he was not defeated. Three years later, he was able to use Judas to achieve his purposes, able to sway Peter in a night of weakness. He was not defeated by a long shot.

Our celebrant also made an interesting point that when Jesus warned Peter that "Satan has asked to sift you like wheat" that the pronoun you was not stated in the singular in the Greek, but in the plural, implying a greater you than just Peter himself... implying anyone who would follow Jesus, then or centuries later. That would be us. "The adversary prowls like a roaring lion" but I think more often, the adversary quietly uses fear, personal preference, greed, and our insufferable pride to trip us up and knock us down.

The war is not over, the fat lady has not sung: God Bless America. What we do with the current temptations of power, as individuals and as a nation, remain to be seen. Scripture tells us: "but Christ is on our side." The best temptation the devil can use is to dupe us into thinking that means we are right, or invincible. We are neither.

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