Sunday, February 21, 2010

“Yo Quisiera Taco Bell” Luke 4:1-13; Deut 26:1-11

Westminster Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe,  February 21, 2010
First Sunday of Lent
“Hey Mom, what do you know about the devil?"  The 4 year old asked my colleague after hearing of Jesus’ temptation.[1] How does a mother, or Father, or anyone begin to answer that question?  Draw upon Augustine?  Or popular wisdom? The mother said, "Well dear, what do you know about the devil?"
"Well," he began, "the devil talked to Jesus."  “And The devil was mean..." Mean, she wondered.  Does that describe the devil’s actions? Leaning closer to his mother, he dropped his voice down to a loud whisper, "If we were at a store, and you and Dad were on one aisle, and I was in another aisle, and"..." and there was candy..."  (pause)  “The devil would say, "You should take some!"
Hmmm.  What was she to say to her son? 
The story isn’t so much about temptation, as it is about how Jesus shows his faithfulness to God, setting the stage for all of his ministry, and ultimately, his sacrifice and resurrection.  The devil tests Jesus' identity, his self understanding and his mission—if you are really God's son, perform a miracle...make bread..  I know you're hungry...If you're really God's son, claim your royal power...worship me.  If you're really God's son, push the limits of God's love...throw yourself off the temple. Jesus refuses, claiming scripture as his guide, and the devil departs...for a little while anyway. 
"Honey," She says to her son, if we were in the store, and Dad and I were in one aisle, and you were in another, and there was candy, and the devil said, 'you should take some.' What would you say back to the devil?" 

The little boy smiled, and said, "Oh! I would say thank you!" 
It's not hard for a little boy to miss the point of the temptation.  It's not hard for us either.  

This story of Jesus and the devil in the wilderness for 40 days, happens before his ministry formally begins…when he has to ask himself…Is the way of the Messiah...the way of the cross?  Jesus succeeds in passing the devil's tests...Do his followers? 
Over the years, I’ve really come to appreciate the season of lent.  It’s awesome! 
It’s a time when I get to try something out. I like a good challenge, and if the challenge is tough and I get through it, I’m pretty happy with my accomplishment. If the challenge turns out to be not what I expected…I know it will end soon.  Easter’s coming!  But more than that, I love that at it’s best, Lent is a time when we are to get real with our selves, with our God, and with one another.  What is God calling us to do or to be?  Disciples…always, and now we put the rubber to the road, so to speak.

We model our practice of 40 days, because Jesus was in the wilderness 40 days.  
But we pray that our efforts will teach us the way of the cross...not the way of selfish desires…but, the devil may try to show us where the candy is…Can we resist, knowing the will of God, that resurrection is just on the other side. 

This year, I’m proposing, with the blessing of the elders, that we consider a lenten discipline that would focus on us collectively reducing our consumption of fossil fuels. Hoping that we would become more aware of our contribution of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and reduce it even in a small, but perhaps significant way. Hoping we would consider living a more simple life, learning to trust more in God. Hoping we would rediscover our connection to the land and to God’s good Creation.  Hoping that we would rediscover what it means to live in community, and be dependent on and accountable to one another. 

Some may ask: Is this a political issue…?  Sure. A social issue? Of course.  Is it an issue that ought to concern Christians? DefinitelyIs climate change happening as a result of human activity?  Our Dutch friend Sander van Doorn (aka the Coronel), who with his family was a member here of this church while doing Biology research at the Santa Fe institute, knows the answer is yes; and he knows that if we don’t do anything about it, the home he grow up in will be under water in this century, because of melting glaciers. Why do you think he and Christel were always riding their bikes and walking everywhere…those crazy Europeans…!

In December, I heard an interview with a Christian environmentalist, Bill McKibben, founder of that explained a little more of what was going on.  
McKibben said it’s easy to trace historically what’s happening to the atmosphere:  Two hundred years ago, we learned to burn coal, gas, and oil. We started digging up hundreds of millions of years' worth of biology, combusting it, and putting all that carbon into the atmosphere in one big flush.[2] 

Before that development, the carbon levels in the atmosphere wear steadily around 275 parts per million, for thousands of years...and now in the last two hundred years those levels have increased to 387 parts per million.  A level that scientist agree is way above a healthy rate for our planet to sustain life the way it has before.[3]  

The effects of the change are tremendously varied and far-reaching. In 2007, McKibben was in Dhaka, Bangladesh and caught dengue fever, one of several mosquito-borne diseases that are spreading to new areas of the world, in part as a result of rising temperatures.

McKibben points out that there's an inverse, almost linear relationship between how much of the problem one causes and how quickly one feels the effects.  Which is part of the reason why we don’t worry about it too much in this country.
He remembers going to the hospital in Dhaka and looking at this huge ward full of a couple of hundreds beds, with people in every one of them just shivering away. And he thought, "This is unfair. These people have done literally nothing to cause this. When the UN tries to measure how much carbon each nation admits, you can't even really get a number for the 140 million people in Bangladesh. It's just like a rounding error in the whole calculation. Meanwhile, the 4 percent of the world’s population in this country produce 25 percent of the world's CO2. “If there's a hundred beds in that hospital, 25 of them are on us. McKibben says.[4]

So how do we respond to this as a people who follow the way of Jesus, which was to care for the sick? If climate change results in a greater number of areas in the world that experience drought and famines...where people are literally are people of the way of Jesus to follow, are we not to provide food for the hungry...or do we just say, It’s not my problem, or worse, God must be punishing them...?

 The task before us is simple because we know what we have to do....use less fossil fuels.  The task before us is difficult because we know what we have to do...change the way we live. 

Our dependence on fossil fuels for transportation is that just the way the world is? 
Living in larger houses than we ever have lived in our history..because we want to live the american dream...
Buying products made, not in America, or even Mexico, but halfway around the world, because…it’s not my responsibility to decide where they came from
Eating food that has marinated in oil for 1500 miles to get to your plate…what can I do about that?  

Is this biblical living?  Is this living the way of the cross?   

I was a little boy when I became captivated by the beauty and wonder of God's creation.  I remember sitting outside sometimes for hours, just listening to sounds, playing in creeks, staring at bees and bugs.  I remember going through my grandparents woods and being fascinated by the green, the tall trees, the bird,
My mom said when I was real little.. I’d pet mushrooms. MushroomsThey’re kind of cute…no?  And you know what my older sister would do, if she was around and saw me petting the mushrooms? She would come up behind me and stomp on them. 

We humans are complicated beings....we can appreciate and live as part of Creation, we can embrace the fact that God has given us this land as an inheritance…and care for it by touching the earth lightly or we can pit ourselves against Creation...and stomp on it… making a huge carbon footprint. 

I'm sure my sister would love to know that I used myself as the good example and her as the mean one! 

We will be exploring the theme, touch the earth lightly, as we journey together through lent, claiming scripture as our guide….

Won’t you join me and my family over the next forty days... and seek a closer walk with God in this way? But beware!  When you start living the way of the cross, conflicts may arise.  Your actions may threaten othersThey may even try to stop you from making changes in your life because they do not want to examine their own.  Accept this—it comes with the territory. Beware that you don’t take on a self-righteous attitude.  This is not the way of humility.  People do not want to be around someone who lives life to show others how they are wrong.
If you have an understanding of the beauty and the complexity of life, then you will always attract people who are yearning for peace and fulfillment.[5]  I believe this is at the heart of the gospel message….sharing the good news of God. 
We understand that we are no better than anyone else; we are just trying to live our lives by following in the ways of the Master. 

And so we wander through the wilderness...praying, struggling, hoping, resisting 
May our worship and our service be for God’s glory In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.  Amen

[1] Lori Brandt Hale, Theological Perspecitve, Luke 4:1-12,Feasting on The Word,Year C, Volume 2, pp 46-48.
[2] Bill McKibben interview with Krista Tippet, “The Moral Math of Climate Change, “ Speaking of Faith, Dec 2009.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.

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