Sunday, February 14, 2016

Luke 4:1-13
Don’t believe the lies

Every year, the First Sunday in Lent features the story of Jesus being tempted – or tested – in the wilderness. Each gospel writer tells the story a little differently, but the key elements are the same.
The event occurs immediately after Jesus’ baptism, when he is filled with the Holy Spirit. He is in the wilderness for 40 days and nights. He is fasting. And the evil one shows up to test his commitment to being God’s Son, God’s way.
When we take a closer look at the specific tests, the evil one invites Jesus to use his power to make bread, claim divine power, and dare God to keep him safe. “If you are the Son of God you can do these things and make your own life a little easier, right here, right now.”
But these invitations are really lies. Jesus already knows he has the power to make bread, and lots of it, enough to feed a crowd. Jesus already knows he is God’s Son, and has power over the whole world, including the evil one. Jesus already knows he will be safe, until the time of his arrest and crucifixion, and beyond with his resurrection.
But if Jesus wasn’t paying attention, if his focus wasn’t on the Divine will, he may have been tempted. He would face a test again, in the Garden of Gethsemane. And although he would cry out in torment, and ask if there isn’t another way besides giving up his life, he would once again pass the test, and follow God’s plan, all the way to the cross and resurrection.
In our lives, we too hear lots of lies. Some are obvious. A young voice says, “Grandma, is that you? I’m in jail in Mexico and I need money!” A bulk mailing tells you “You have won $10,000,000 in the lottery or sweepstakes.” A handyman says he can put a new roof on your house for $500.  We are usually too smart and too aware to fall for these lies.
But there are other lies we may believe. Some people believe the lie that drugs like cocaine and heroin make you feel better. But we know the good feeling is temporary and over the months and years, such drugs make people feel worse and worse.
My friend Gerry recently moved to an assisted living facility. She is 90 years old. Her daughter wants her to sit in her room and stay safe, because she is so old. But, Gerry gets picked up each week and brought to Kiwanis meetings. She makes hundreds of ribbon and plastic canvas angels every year. She will attend any Kiwanis and church event she can get to. She may not be as bright as she used to be, but she is smart enough to resist her daughter’s fears.   
I have heard from a few people that they don’t feel worthy enough to go to church. They are afraid they are not good enough to be loved by God. Something they did in the past; something they didn’t do in the past; something they wish they could stop doing now; these are all things that make people think they are not worthy of God’s love. These are lies our culture often teaches us. The truth is that there is nothing God won’t forgive, if we simply ask for it.
I have heard people say they need to do lots of good thing to balance the bad things they have done. I have heard people say the way some people dress, or the games they play, or the people they hang out with make them unworthy in God’s eyes. This is another lie. We are all children of God, who loves us regardless of our clothes, or our entertainment, or our friends.
I have heard people say that a church without lots of children will not survive. But congregations that intentionally reach out and minister to and with older adults have bright futures. Older adults have time and experience and passion for ministry. So, let’s not believe that lie. And let’s invite more older adults to join us.
After the late service today, Pastor Jim Graeser will be with us to lead us in planning for the future. Many people believe the lie that small congregations can barely survive and rarely thrive. It is true that it is harder to be a small congregation, but if the members are determined to thrive and if they commit themselves to the hard work of envisioning and implementing a new future, small congregations are unstoppable.
Instead of believing the lies of the evil one and the nay-sayers, let’s believe the truth of Jesus, who said “I am sending you an Advocate, a helper.” Jesus himself depended on God’s Holy Spirit to survive the time of testing in the wilderness, and the depths of despair in the Garden of Gethsemane. So should we! So, let’s work together to imagine a future of thriving for Hope. The Holy Spirit will be with us all the way.
Whatever we are doing, let’s turn to Jesus for the truth about who we are – beloved children of God, forgiven and filled with grace and Holy Spirit power. Let’s turn to Jesus for the truth about what we can do. Let us remember that we can do anything with God’s help. And that’s the truth!

Please pray with me. God of truth, lead us to follow you. Help us know the lies we hear for what they are, and guide us into the future with hope and trust that you are in charge. Remind us that we are your beloved children, and there is nothing we can do that separates us from you. Amen