Sermon – 03-01-20 – Lent I – Cycle A
Scriptures: Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11
Sermon Title: “The Saga of the Serpent”
Serpent as in snake! What are our serpents? What can’t we resist? We can start simply like McDonald hamburgers or chocolate candy or ice cream. How about talking negatively about other people? Misusing our credit cards. Taking our family members for granted. Causing our families grief. Addictions: smoking, drinking, gambling, eating too much. Using coarse language when there are millions of acceptable words in the English language. Insisting on our own way. Thinking we are better than other people. Forgetting to look for Jesus in each and every person we meet.
Well I got myself here, starting with the McDonald hamburgers. Where did you feel a twinge or maybe even a stab of pain? This is reality. No matter how rich or poor, no matter skin color, or style of living, not matter what religion or no religion, no matter the age, we are tempted to do things or say things that are not healthy in any way. They don’t work!
There was Eve as the story goes. God said, “Don’t touch, don’t taste!” What does Eve do? Of course, just what we would have done probably. She touched the fruit. She tasted the fruit. I would normally say, “Oh, my goodness!” In the case of Eve in the perfect garden, I should be saying, “Oh, my badness!” Just think – no work. Imagine that! Apparently no weeds to pull. Eating that fruit was definitely not a healthy thing to do! If she was bored, she certainly changed that!
And you know how it is. Once we touch and taste, it is too late. There is no easy way to retrieve anything we have digested or done or said. Of course, we like to look for company in our badness. Eve found her company in Adam. She tempted him to be the accomplice. But . . God is God! Nothing slips by him. I believe God is all-knowing among other “alls” that apply to God.
In this story, God is ready with the consequences for Adam and Eve. But in our own lives, God often sits and waits for the consequences to happen to us after we goofed. The Ten Commandments and the Two Great Commandments are our rules for living that work. They are the Constitution and By-Laws of the great institution of living.
Moving forward through thousands of years to Jesus in the wilderness after his baptism in the Jordan, we find Jesus using words from the Hebrew scripture to rebuke and resist Satan, otherwise known as the devil or the snake or the serpent. Picture this: there are these fasnachts on a plate on the table or there is this person who says, “Let me buy a drink for you. What are you drinking?” Do we remember to pull out these words: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” That piece of chocolate cake has my name on it. That piece of lemon sponge pie is calling my name. That cigarette which someone wants to use to tempt me is absolutely screaming at me. “Oh, God, help me!”
What about the movie that does not make us think of God’s goodness, only selfish desires or revenge that seems appropriate or nasty words? Where are the words about not living by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God?
The bully says, “I dare you to ride your bike on the back wheel alone.” (There is a word for that but I don’t know what it is. You know, I am sure. No one ever dared me to do that.) The bully might go so far as to say, “You think your God will save you. Let’s see if you can ride your bike to the edge of the cliff and just stop in time. Will your God do that for you – stop just at the last eighths of an inch?” Which young person is going to remember or even know to say, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Where is our spiritual wholeness? How can we find it or replenish it? How can we increasingly notice temptation leaving us alone? How can we resist without thinking two seconds about it? Well, there is the reward. Angels. When we have resisted with all our might, angels visit. They bring calmness and peace and a closeness to the Father. We may not see the angels, but we can feel their love and kindness and their trust in us to stay looking to Jesus.
Managing to chose friends who seem close to God is a good way to resist temptation. You may remember the word “type.” People who appeared, or still appear, momentarily who prepare us for the real live person. There is this King Melchizedek, also called the Great High Priest, who is mentioned several places in the Old Testament. He is the prototype, or just type, for Jesus. He brought bread and wine to Abram after God helped Abram win a battle with his enemies. In Psalm 110, we have Melchizedek mentioned again to David. Jesus is a descendant of David. We find in the Old Testament these veiled references to Jesus. David is saying that Jesus is his Lord when in fact Jesus is a descendant of David. The Lord said to my Lord means “The Father said to Jesus.”
All along from the time of Abram, we have this prototype of Christ. The model of rightness and goodness. The model of being beside us to give to us power to resist, the longing to do what is right, what is God’s way of living. We can have pleasure while living God’s way. It is the way of water for our thirst and our cleansing, of decent clothing but not lavish, of only being addicted to God’s way, of only kind words coming from our mouths. Only looking for the good in people, not the bad or annoying characteristics.
As the story of Eve and Adam moves through scripture, Eve drops out of the picture as being the original instigator. She does not count. She is a female. That is a sermon for another day – how females and children were not even counted in the crowds in the Bible stories. So in ignoring Eve, Adam gets the blame. Double unfairness here!
So Adam’s power to draw us into sin is overcome by the appearance of this Holy model named Melchizedek. Finally, the fruition of this model into the life of the Son of God, Jesus, breaks, once and for all, the power of Adam’s sin. One man’s trespass is overcome by the righteousness and mercy of this type moving through the Old Testament, appearing to Abraham and then David, ancestor of Jesus, and then Jesus is with us in real time on the cross and in the grave and then risen as we declare “Hallelujah!”
“Temptation be gone. Sin be gone! I don’t need you,” we can say. “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him,” can be our motto or mantra, saying it over and over. And the angels appear! Amen