Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sick Blogger and the Devil(s)

I have spent the last three days in a feverish haze, coughing, choking, generally feeling miserable. It all started as soon as I got home from preaching that tomato flavored sermon, which ended up not being tomato flavored at all. The 40 or so people who heard it were very receptive, in fact, one of the liveliest crowds I've preached to in a while. They nudged each other; that was a first in my experience. Then they came up to me and said these exact words: "You hit the nail on the head." Four different people said those words; others said some version of them. They wondered whether I had asked their regular supply pastor about them. Had he been telling tales out of school? No, I said. This was the lectionary epistle for the day. Period. What I didn't tell them was this: 95 out of every 100 churches would probably recognize themselves in what I said.

Then they asked me if I was looking for a job.

So I was flying, and then I was home coughing, and the rest is sort of a blur.

Except: the season openers of Desperate Housewives (Sunday) and The Gilmore Girls (Tuesday). Woohoo! My Petra and I had much fun. Much. But when, o when, will Bree stop falling in love with psychotics? And when, o when, will Lorelai stop sabotaging herself?

The day will come when I will write astute commentaries on the sociological trends and mores revealed in Desperate Housewives and The Gilmore Girls.

Today is not that day. I still don't have three brain cells to rub together.

But I have two. So here are my thoughts on Luke 4:1-13, today's lectionary gospel offering.

On this day when I been reminded about both Hillary Clinton being compared to the devil (by Jerry Falwell) and President Bush being called a devil (by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez) in Maureen Dowd's column in the New York Times, I have the fun of reading about Jesus being tempted by the devil in Luke.

Let's read it:

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.

Here are my thoughts (remember, two brain cells):

First, Jesus is full of the Holy Spirit (having just been baptized by John in the Jordan). Big Theme in Luke/Acts. Watch out for the Spirit every which where. Always a good, good sign.

Second, he is led out into the wilderness by that same Spirit, so the temptation must be a necessary part of God's plan for him. In fact, I would go further than that. I would say that Jesus can trust the temptation, if that makes any sense. If it is Spirit led, good will come of it.

Third, the devil's temptations begin with the basic human need--bread, sustenance-- and progress to more advanced kinds of needs/ wants-- earthly power/ riches, and then proof positive of God's care for him.

Fourth, note that Jesus responds by quoting scripture. I'm not so impressed, though, because...

Fifth, note that, on the last temptation, the wily devil begins to quote scripture back at him. Even the devil can quote scripture.

And sixth, notice that the devil is gone... for now.

Like my cough.

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