11 February 2008

Temptation - Matthew 4:1-11

Though Mae West passed away years ago, she summed up U.S. culture
today when she said, “I generally avoid temptation, unless I can’t
resist it.” You don’t have to look far to be tempted. Our sexual
desires are tempted in exploitive advertising, be it seductive TV ads
or barely clad models on eight-story billboards. Our coarser drive to
judge others is tempted by a driven competitiveness woven into every thread of our society. Our material desires are tempted by unrelenting sales pitches. Everyone in my house (save my 19 month-old daughter) is on a diet and one can hardly go two blocks without being tempted to gorge on an abundance of food. We are tempted to reduce political discourse to a Sesame Street-level game of matching like with like when our media assumes women will of course vote for women and African Americans will of course vote for African Americans so who will African American women vote for? We are tempted to forget about our real connection to every other living person when a one-minute news item on the carnage in Kenya is followed by a 30-second commercial for the most comfortable ride in a Lexus. Indeed, we need not travel to a far away reality show island to be bombarded with temptation.

And the general consensus is: give in. If it feels good, do it, buy
it, eat it, consume it, use it.

So much comes to mind as I read of the temptations of Christ. Being
in a Jewish-Christian family, I appreciate how it reveals the depth of
Judaism in the life of Jesus as He quotes Deuteronomy. I think of my
classmate Kellie who speaks of Scripture like praying without ceasing, that Scripture is always there, ceaseless and always speaking. A friend of mine who has wrestled for a long time with a sex addiction recently confided to me that he finally turned towards God to help him through the periods of temptation, and this is what has helped him turn the corner in his struggle. Of course, relying on God is what Bill W and Doctor Bob discovered in their pioneering work that created A.A. What a mighty force to combat temptation.

It is easy to take Lent for granted. It is easy to create a sacrifice
for these forty (or so) days and reduce it to a symbol, a gesture, or
little more than a positive habit. It can feel like an “exercise” in
resisting temptation. The promise of Lent, though, is to actively
walk a road to a deeper connection with God. None of us are dedicated to lives of solitary prayer lived in social isolation. We are Presbyterians, we find in our worship transformation and renewal for service in this world and in community. These days offer a special opportunity to refocus how we offer our lives to -- and deepening our connection with -- God.

May God bless you in this special time and keep you always.
--Paul Mowry

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