St Alban’s Episcopal Church
Bolivar, Missouri

Monday, February 27, 2023

more from Sunday, Lent 1

Matthew 4:1-11 Matthew 4:1-11
After he was baptized by John, Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ Jesus said to him, “Again the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan, for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ “Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
(You can see the entire story below, in this piece of ancient art – notice that the tempter, the devil, is always smaller than Jesus is – He speaks, but he has no more power than humans give him. Don’t give him any.)

First Sunday in Lent – a Reflection
Everyone we meet is walking in their own desert
Trying to survive, tempted by the devil.
Which is why Lent begins with Jesus in the desert
With the same wild beasts out to devour him
Even as they devour us.
Some of us are hungry, just plain hungry
For food, water, shelter.
Some of us starving for affection, kindness, touch.
Hungry for education or opportunity or love.
There are times the devil leads us to the mountain top
Reminding us we are alone.
If we fell off the mountain top
There would be no one to save us.
If we lost a job, a house,
If our loved one dies,
If a marriage ended in pain
If we suffer from depression, anxiety
If we have an addiction -a terminal illness
Forget about angels catching us –
There is no one between our life and crashing on the rocks.
Lost there is no way our desert
Unless we worship the devil – Be who other people want us to be,
Not who God made you to be.
Never show anyone who you truly are -What you feel and what you hoe for
If you are to have any chance at friendship
Any shot at realizing any of your dreams.
Jesus walks our desert with us, so we can find the way out
Jesus in the desert with us, leading us towards the love, towards God, being the love the devil tells us we will never have.
With no disrespect for the trials of our individual desert
Some people’s desert is worse than others.
The devil’s teeth take a bigger bite
Out of some than others.

I was reminded of this by a NYTimes article describing the life of some immigrant children in the USA.
‘Cristian, 14, who goes to work construction not school. Carolina, 15, working all night packing Cheerios. Wander 13, looking for day jobs before dawn. Oscar, 14, working the night shift at a sawmill. Twelve year olds working as roofers and in slaughter houses. Thirteen year olds spending their days washing hotel sheets. A 13-yr-old legally sponsored by someone who tells him on his arrival: “Don’t mess with me – you don’t mean anything to me.” Sending him off to work for the sponsor’s profit. Some people’s, some children’s desert, is drier, thirstier, hungrier, crueler – Equipped with more wild beasts than mine is.

Sisters and brothers, Jesus has shown us
The only way out of the desert is Love.
The only way out of the desert is together.
None of us can escape from our desert with love
While leaving others behind.
Lent is not a private experience,
Not if we are in communion with the Risen Lord Jesus,
We can’t leave people to suffer in the desert alone.
With whatever our meager ability is
We walk with them, as Jesus walks with us,
With love, leading them towards love.
Being the love the Devil tells them does not exist;
the Love that leads them out of the desert
To the Resurrection. Amen
Mark-David Janus



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