Sunday, February 17, 2013

Me and The Devil - Luke 4:1-13

An ethic worthy of temptation....Resisting be saved Have you ever been tempted to make a deal with the devil? If you haven’t maybe you’re not trying hard enough :). Tales of dealings with the Devil have long been part of the human experience. In contemporary lore, the devil shows up in cartoons- like the one Ruby was watching the other day which had a cute little dog who was conflicted about making a choice for selfish gain or making a choice for the good of his friends. ..and the little talking angel with a halo shows up on one shoulder and the little talking devil with horns on the other, both trying to persuade him on the choice...

There are popular plays like, "heaven bound" which tours the country year after year depicting a devil who is trying his darnest to cause people to make choices that will prevent them from going to heaven...bringing them down, if you will. One of my favorite stories is that told by the Charlie Daniel's band in the song called "the devil went down to Georgia," - looking for a soul to steal. The young fiddler Johnny and the devil go head to head in a fiddling duel, if Johnny wins he gets the devil's golden fiddle..."but if you lose the devil gets your soul!" In the 1930s folklorist Harry M. Hyatt recorded many tales of banjo players, fiddlers, card sharks, dice players, guitarists, and one accordionist selling their souls at crossroads - a symbolic junction where life can take them in one direction with the devil as their companion, or another. One such guitar player was Robert Johnson: “According to legend, as a young man living on a plantation in rural Mississippi, Robert Johnson was branded with a burning desire to become a great blues musician. He was "instructed" to take his guitar to a crossroad near Dockery Plantation at midnight. There he was met by a large [dark] man (the Devil) who took the guitar and tuned it. The "Devil" played a few songs and then returned the guitar to Johnson, giving him mastery of the instrument... In exchange for his soul, Robert Johnson was able to create the blues for which he became famous.” (Wikipedia). One of his most popular songs he called, “Me and the Devil Blues” Which tells of his meeting with the devil at the crossroads. This story harkens back to the 16th century and Faust - who makes a deal with the devil.. which harkens back even earlier To Milton and Paradise Lost that tells of the origin of the devil We have earlier biblical stories of Jesus and his dealings with the devil in the wilderness Or back even earlier of God and Satan considering the fate of “God’s servant, Job.” Or even earlier with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden (Gen 3). Humans have been dealing with the devil since the beginning... Do you go head to head with the devil? If not, you may not be trying hard enough ;). To be clear, fantasy and contemporary folklore aside, for the gospel writers - Jesus' temptation in the wilderness is not a story about a pitchfork, red suits and horns. It is a fierce battle. The timing of the tempter is perfect: Jesus has not preached a sermon, cast out a demon, or healed anyone. He is just on the brink of initiating his ministry; at a crossroad perhaps? Does he know he is on the verge of changing the world forever? The gospel writer Luke is telling of Jesus struggle with what it really means to be part of God’s business. Jesus' temptation takes place due to the Spirit’s leading him into the wilderness to be tempted. Jesus' temptation takes place after 40 days of not eating food, a sacred time which recalls The fasting of both Moses and Elijah. And what does Jesus' temptation look like? A conversation. We get no physical description of the devil, but we do get that the devil seems to know what is important to Jesus, and he is armed with Scripture in order to convince Jesus of his way. Jesus too, is armed with Scripture in his resisting the tempter. Jesus is tempted in 3 ways and in each, it's not a temptation that would immediately lead to his demise, but instead if he were to comply with the devil, it would lead to his potential greatness and fame... In the first, the devil wants jesus to prove himself-: “turn stone into bread.” Will Jesus' ministry be one of turning stones to bread? Wouldn’t those who are hungry hope so! Wouldn’t Jesus, who is famished hope so. So Why not do it!? What is it about proving oneself - one’s self worth; or using one's own gifted ness, God given gifts and abilities!-- that is tempting? But what is Jesus' response? (get congregation to say it): "One does not live by bread alone" What does this tell us about who God is and what God wants for our lives? In the second, the devil will give to Jesus all the political power given to him - if Jesus will worship the devil. (which leaves lingering the question: how did the devil get all that power?) Will Jesus submit to the ruler of this world in order to achieve good for the people of this world? The oppressed certainly would hope that Jesus would take this position in order to liberate them from their oppressors. So Why not do it?! What is it about power - gaining authority, even with the best intentions to do a lot of good for a lot of people - that is tempting? What is Jesus response? (get congregation to say it): Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him. What does this tell us about who God is and what God wants for our lives? In the third temptation, the devil wants Jesus to do a bungie jump from a high place without a bungie cord of course, in order for God to prove Godself. Will Jesus win Jerusalem by coercing faith, and avoid death by the display of supernatural power? Those longing for proof of God’s power among us in the form of a miracle, in the form of divine intervention in this often bleak and desperate world... sure do hope so. So Why not do it, Jesus!? What is it about asking God to display divine power-- through a healing or a miracle or radical intervention in the world--that is tempting? Jesus response (get congregation to say it): Do not put the Lord your God to the test! What does this tell us about who God is and what God wants for our lives? These are difficult dealings Jesus has with the devil. And in all three, taking distinct angles, Jesus is offered an opportunity to rise... but, resists, which would suggest that Jesus' path is to be one of becoming low... the Servant of God is on the path, not of seeking to become great, but of lowliness which comes in the form of service, humility, and not seeking personal gain. A path of lowliness which would eventually lead to him being raised up.. .raised up on a cross... But the cross was not the final word. Have we had dealing with the devil? ...if not we may not be trying hard take that path of lowliness, as taken by Jesus. What does God want for your life? Such a hard question to answer, if we are seeking an answer. This is the me and the devil blues...the crossroad! Jesus fasted 40 days seeking an answer... Being committed to the way of God in the world does not exempt one from the struggle. In fact, those who are most engaged in the way of God may experience most intensely the opposition of evil. If Jesus struggled, who is exempt? As we embark on our Lenten journeys over the next 40 days may we have opportunities to struggle with what it really means to be part of God’s business. And when this struggle comes, unannounced and in unassuming ways, from within ourselves and from without, often when we are at a crossroad, let us call upon the name of Jesus to show us the way, that we might be saved, and follow in his way of radical dependence on God. 

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