No quick fix

                                                                       Lent 1 – 2016 – some thoughts                                                                                             Luke 4:1-15

                                                                                                                                                                  Marian Free

In the name of God who asks for all that we have so that God can give us all that we need. Amen.

Some time ago, I had surgery on my foot. As part of the healing process I was to keep off my foot for a fortnight and not drive for six weeks. It has to be said that even with lectures to prepare and movies to watch, two weeks stuck on a couch seemed like forever. Once the pain had diminished, it was tempting to move about to fill in the time in other ways, but in this instance I knew that a “quick” recovery meant doing what was required. So, bored and uncomfortable I stayed on the couch with my foot on a stool and moved about only when absolutely necessary.

It is tempting to cut corners, to avoid the hard yards that a good job requires. At first it might appear that it made no difference that we went back to work too soon, that we used an injured limb before the recommended time, that we didn’t properly prepare the timber before we painted, that we didn’t properly cream the butter and the sugar for our cake. In fact, there will be times that we don’t experience any ill consequences for our failure to do something properly. However, there will be times when the consequences of our failure to follow through are disastrous. A bad paint job will need redoing sooner rather than later, a cake that has not been properly stirred might be lumpy, but a limb that has not properly healed might cause us even worse problems later on, and a return to work when we have not fully recovered from an illness may mean that the infection returns – more virulent than before – and we lose even more time from work than had we been patient in the first place.

Here, at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus is offered a short cut, a way out of the difficult and painful course that lay before him. The tempter tells him that doesn’t have to be hungry. It would be easy enough for Jesus to turn stones into bread. As the Son of God Jesus he could simply enforce God’s rule, bend the wills of people to his own, there was no need to persuade and encourage. He didn’t have to endure the suffering and pain of the cross when he could simply call on the angels to save him.

Jesus has been driven into the wilderness to reflect on his call and on his role. The temptations are anything but theoretical. They reflect the very real choices that faced Jesus – to fully enter the human experience or to exert the power of his divinity, to impose his will or to draw people to his way of seeing things, to gain attention by being a miracle worker or by working beside people, to try to escape pain and suffering or to place his trust completely in God and believe that the cross would be worth it.

 

Forty days in the wilderness have taught Jesus that near enough would not be good enough and that easy solutions would not achieve the end goal. Jesus knew that people who were impressed by easy miracles would not stick around for the long haul, that loyalty that was forced would be no loyalty at all and that without the cross there would be no resurrection.

Jesus will be a very different sort of Christ from the one whom many expected. His leadership will be marked by service and his victory will look like defeat, but it will only be through his complete submission to God that Jesus will be able to restore the relationship between God and the people of God. So Jesus refuses to be drawn into the devil’s ruse, he resists temptation to take the easy way out and sets his mind to the task that is before him.

What is true for Jesus is true for us. Later in the gospel Jesus will ask the disciples: “Who do the crowds say that I am?” When Peter identifies him as the Christ, Jesus makes sure that the disciples know what this means telling them that he must suffer and be rejected and killed and that on the third day he will be raised. He goes on to say that those who follow him must set their minds to the same experience – figuratively if not literally. They must deny themselves and take up their cross daily. If they want to save their life, they must lose it.

Jesus’ life and death not only win our salvation, but they provide the model for our own spiritual lives. If we are to realise our full potential as children of God, we, like Jesus must be prepared to go the full distance, to put in the effort that is required, to give ourselves whole-heartedly and with conviction. In order to be formed into the image of Christ we must be prepared to stick with it,, to understand that short-term pain leads to long-term gain. We must try to see the big picture rather than getting caught up in the minutia of the every day. We must learn that near enough is simply not good enough.

Lent provides an opportunity for us to share Jesus’ wilderness experience, to ask ourselves once again, what it is that God wants of us. Lent allows us time and space to see how we are going, to ask ourselves whether we are content with the superficial or whether we are ready to explore the depths of our existence, to consider whether our focus is on the present or on eternity. Lent gives us space to ponder whether we trust God sufficiently to give ourselves completely to God or whether we are still holding something back, whether we understand that it is only by giving all that we have that we gain everything that we could ever want or need.

Lent forces us to ask whether we are just giving lip service to faith or whether we are really ready to allow God to be all in all.

How will you spend this Lent and will your practice equip you for the rest of your journey or will it simply fulfill the needs of the moment?

 

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