Friday, March 8, 2019

Gospel Text for First Sunday in Lent 10 March 2019

Luke 4:1-13        After his baptism, Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread." Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone.’"

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, "To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours." Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’" Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'"Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Reflection        When have you been full of  the Spirit? When have you been swept into a moment of wonder and awe; a near death experience? feeling the substance of a newborn who an hour ago was not there? having a book fall off a shelf and open to the precise words you needed to hear? taking the risk to speak your truth and being well received?  When have you felt loved? When have you felt chosen? When have you “known” what you know that you know with not the least notion of how you know it? When have words spilled from your mouth, startled your eyes and made you wonder, “Wow, where did that come from?” 

I believe, like Jesus, we all are full of the Holy Spirit, which is to say, we all are full of God’s power in action. And, like Jesus, it is up to us to choose how we will put God’s power into action?  Do we choose to use the Spirit, the power of God, to  feed our ravenous appetites by making bread out of stone? feeding our addictions for food, alcohol, pain killers, money, travel, sex, anything in excess? Or, do we choose to find trustworthy sustenance in our with God life? Do we choose to use the Spirit, the power of God in action, to elevate ourselves at the expense of others? Or, do we choose to follow Jesus and be humble purveyors of God’s no strings attached love? Do we choose to put God to the test demanding, if you are God end my adversity and stop the torrent of tragedy that floods the world? Or, do we consent to the suffering inherent in our human condition and experience solace knowing God suffers with us?

Here is the thing, the Spirit that is God’s power in action is with us always. We do not have to go looking for it. It has already made its home in us. But rather than using all things in creation, from bread to sex, from the power to create and influence to the opportunity to receive blessing and perceive the greater good, we have learned to seize and squander the things of this earth. We have bought into the illusion that the world is an awful and evil place, full of anger, hatred and greed and not enough for everyone.  Our eyes have been blinded to the beauty, goodness and abundance of creation. Remember, God called all of creation good and called humankind very good? 

When we buy into the illusion that the world has gone to hell in a hand basket, guess what? That is what we see.  As people of God, filled with the Holy Spirit of God, we must refuse that illusion and choose instead to see the beauty, goodness and abundance of creation so that we can put God’s power into action persuasively. How shall we begin? 

By the grace of God we can change our glasses. To dismantle our illusion that the world is nothing but darkness and despair let me suggest we begin with prayer. Pick a time each day to express gratitude, thanking God for the beauty, goodness and abundance in our life, even if we can only find the smallest thing for which we are grateful. Then ask ourselves, “When we have had the opportunity to put God’s power into action, did we succumb to our addictions to dull our pain or bury our conscience? Or did we turn to God and ask for help? When have we used our resources, influence or power without regard for the effect on others? When have we embodied the Spirit of abundance and expressed unconditional love? Then noticing the times that we could do better, pray for the grace to do so. Finally, thanking God for the power of the Spirit with us, even if we have not felt it. 

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