Saturday, March 04, 2017

Into the Desert to Be Tempted

Stanley Spencer, (1891-1959).
Christ in the Wilderness: The Scorpion (1939)

By Rev. Paul Berghout

So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. Genesis 3:6-7

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so, through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19

At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterward, he was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him,” If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” Matthew 4:1-3

No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial, he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote an unforgettable story about a Dr. Jekyll and a Mr. Hyde. Most of you know the story well. Dr. Henry Jekyll was respected in his community–a gentleman in every respect. But he had some secret vices which he kept carefully hidden from public view. Desiring to practice these vices unrestrained without endangering his standing in the community, he concocted a strange potion that would allow him to transform his physical features at will. Thus, he would be free to move about town and practice his vices without damaging his reputation.

During the day, he was the amiable Dr. Jekyll, a credit to his community. At night, he was transformed into a sociopathic monster called Mr. Hyde caring for no one at all and wreaking havoc everywhere he went.

Initially, Dr. Jekyll was able to control these transformations, but such unrestrained evil could not be kept in check for long. One night in his sleep, without any intent on his part, he was transformed into the infamous Mr. Hyde. Even worse, the evil monster within began dominating his life and eventually took over completely. Dr. Jekyll disappeared completely, only Mr. Hyde was left.

Stevenson’s point was that there is a battle going within each of us. Each of us carries around within us a little of Mr. Hyde and if we do not pay constant attention to our character, we too can be dominated by our lesser selves.

As Lent begins, we hear about the devils of the desert--the situations and people who challenge--these strange companions can test whether or not we know the ultimate truth about our life. Only in the shadows of the wilderness, with the wind howling it will become clear: we live from God, we live on God, we live for God.

Could it be that our deserts are the very places from where we draw our spiritual power like water from a well, where our faith is strengthened, and assurance given that we can as Jesus did, deliberately choose the good in the face of temptation and conflict?

What happened to Adam and Eve, from our First Reading?

Typical of Satan's temptations, it was subtle for he made it seem as if the choice to sin is actually a choice to do the better thing. Eve looks at the forbidden tree and it appealed to her physical senses, “pleasing to the eyes” and a positive enhancement of life, “desirable for gaining wisdom.”

The serpent neatly reverses what God had previously said. God's words had emphasized freedom--they could eat from every tree of the garden with only one prohibited. The serpent makes the prohibition universal, making God seem more interested in restriction than freedom.

Deuteronomy 4:2 and Proverbs 30:6 speak of neither adding to nor subtracting from God's word. Temptations are really about identity; Satan tempted Jesus saying, “If you are the Son of God.” Each temptation cuts to the core of what it means to faithfully centered on God.

1 Corinthians 10:13 God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

1 comment:

P. Pablo said...

Nice job with the arrangement and art!