Let me tell you about Desmond and Molly. Desmond and Molly are a nice couple. They have teen age children, Sebastian and Rowena. They live in a nice neighborhood, with a nicely appointed house, on an acre of land, in a wooded area near a large city. Desmond and Molly have good jobs that are satisfying and pay well. Sebastian and Rowena do well in school. They are involved in after school activities, are looking forward to college, and being on their own.
Desmond and Molly each belong to a service club and take active roles in their respective clubs. The family goes to church regularly. The kids raise the expected protest; why do I have to go?
Desmond is in upper management in his company. He has a great deal of responsibility. His performance reviews are always top notch. He has a bright future in his field. He serves on the board of a professional association that he belongs to. This has allowed him to make several valuable contacts. In the course of his career he has made some overseas trips and made many international contacts.
Molly’s story is similar. Molly is a partner in a business. Over the years, Molly and her partner have built the business to the point where they are the first people thought of when someone needs their services. Molly is a member of the Chamber of Commerce in their city serving as the President.
Who could ask for more? Desmond, Molly, Sebastian, and Rowena seem to have it all. Good jobs, nice house, respect and reputation professionally and personally, and wonderful children. They are active in their church, yet something is missing in their lives. They both felt it.
Desmond started thinking I have everything that I have dreamed about. I have a wonderful loving wife who is capable, strong, and confident. Together we have two wonderful children. They are good students and only get into minor trouble. I am rising in my profession. I have recognition. I am able with Molly’s help to provide for my family. I should be satisfied. Something keeps nagging at me. It’s a feeling that I have all of this but I am still thirsty for something.
I have drunk deeply of success I have drunk deeply of love of family yet I am still thirsty. I feel like I have eaten a large bag of salty popcorn and washed it down with a soda. The thirst just won’t go away. I do not know what is going on. I do not know what to do. Nothing seems to quench this thirst I have that I can’t identify. Desmond wasn’t the only one feeling this way.
Molly was having her own inner struggle. I’ve got it all or at least I think I do. I married a wonderful man. We have great kids. My business is successful beyond my dreams. We have a beautiful comfortable home. We can travel, we can go and do things, and provide a good education for the children. I should be satisfied but I am not. I feel like I have eaten a big bag of salted peanuts and have nothing to drink. This longing or thirst was something that would continue to bother them, each handled it a different way.
Desmond tried quenching his thirst with things. If I have the latest technology like the fastest computer with all the latest equipment, a high -speed Internet connection, a cell phone that can do everything, top of the line sporting goods that would help. He kept looking at new things. He was spending more money and all he really got to quench his thirst was more soda. It tasted good in his mouth but all it did was leave him wanting more to drink. It did not quench his thirst.
Molly thought that if she could make herself over everything would be better. If she could deal with all her perceived nagging flaws, that would quench her thirst. She joined a gym, she worked hard, got into shape. She bought new clothes, changed her hairstyle. She sought out new people to see if that would slake her thirst. She too came up short.
As their frustration with themselves and each other grew deeper, they began to argue and fight. Distance was growing between them. Each began blaming the other for what each of them were feeling.
In the midst of it all, each had a God- given confidant that helped them find what they needed. These confidants called them back to the roots of their faith. Each in their own time decided that their problems were not of a material nature. They had nothing to do with what they did or did not have. It had everything to do with their relationship to God.
It was the need for a deeper relationship with God that was causing their thirst. Their thirst would only be quenched by the living water that comes from Jesus Christ. They discovered they needed to re-commit themselves to God. They realized that in the midst of a group of people that met weekly to study the scripture lessons for the following Sunday.
After Desmond and Molly had been part of the group for a couple of months, the group turned to the story of Israel in the wilderness without water. They also looked at the story of Jesus and the women at the well.
In the Exodus story, the people are in the desert on their wilderness journey. They are without water. They demanded that Moses do something. They were so desperate they claimed they were willing to back to Egypt and slavery. Moses is at the end of his rope with the people. After all, God had gotten them out of Egypt, parted the sea for them to escape Pharaoh’s army. When they were hungry, crying out for something to eat, God provided Manna and Quail in abundant quantities. When will these people ever have faith that God would provide.
Moses turns to God for help. What shall I do with these people? They want to stone me. God told Moses; go out ahead of the people. Take some of the Elders with you. Take the staff that you struck the Nile with and I will stand in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Moses does what God says, striking the rock with his staff. Water comes gushing out of the rock. The water crisis is averted and the people have relief. It showed the people that God would always provide. God would be faithful to them. Then they looked at the gospel story in John 4.
Jesus was going north from Jerusalem to his home in Galilee. The most direct route to travel would take him through Samaria. The Jews and the Samaritans were long time bitter enemies. The Jews believed they were Gentiles, as they were people who came from the breakaway northern tribes of ancient Israel. With the passage of time they had intermarried with their Assyrian captors. They also had difficult religious disagreements.
The Jews believed that the scriptures contained the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, the Prophets and the Psalms. They believed that the only place to properly worship Yahweh was at the temple in Jerusalem.
The Samaritans only acknowledged the Torah. They built their own temple to worship in. The two peoples did not mix. Despite that many Jews going north or south would figuratively hold their noses to pass through there, cutting many miles off their journey to Jerusalem.
Disdain and hatred was right on the surface when Jesus went through there. In the midst of the region Jesus stops and sits down at Jacob’s well. This is a place where the Jews and Samaritans share a common story. He sent the disciples to look for food. A woman comes to the well. He asks her for a drink of water. He has nothing with which to draw water from the well.
The woman is astounded by Jesus request. Jesus violated every rule about relationships with Jews and Samaritans. He ignored the rules about male and female conversations. She draws him a drink of water and they converse.
Jesus talks about the human thirst for God. He realizes that this is a thirsty woman. She is thirsty physically and spiritually. He offers her living water which will slake her thirst forever. How are you going to give this water to me as you don’t even have a bucket to get yourself a drink?
She wants that water. She is desperate for it, if for no other reason other than she thought she would not have to come to this well and endure the talk of her neighbors about her misspent life. That is not what Jesus has in mind. What Jesus has in mind is the living water of a relationship with God. How do I get that water she asks Jesus?
Jesus asks her to go get her husband and come back. She replies she has no husband. Then Jesus tells her life story. She has had five husbands and the man she is living with is not her husband. You are right, she acknowledges. I know you are a prophet. That brings them into a conversation about worship, its proper place and who it is we worship. She thinks and then speaks. I know the Messiah is coming. I am he Jesus replies to her. The disciples return asking all kinds of questions like why are you here? Why Jesus are you talking to a woman, and a Samaritan one at that? She leaves urging people to come and meet Jesus. He knows me and he loves me anyway.
Samaritans come to meet him and he stays on teaching. Many Samaritans come to faith in Jesus, much to the surprise and consternation of the disciples. The women at the well had received her living water and was renewed in ways she did not imagine. She shared that source of living water with all she met.
That night in that bible study group, the Holy spirit moved in the lives of Desmond and Molly. The Holy Spirit showed them that they were like the people of Israel in the wilderness, thirsty with no way to deal with the lack of water. The Spirit also let them see themselves in the story of Jesus and the women. Just as the women’s thirst for God was satisfied by the living water that Jesus offered, Desmond and Molly drank of the living water of forgiveness, healing, and grace. When that relationship with God was realized, the thirst was quenched.
That night, the living water offered by Jesus, would slake the thirst of Desmond and Molly. It was the baptismal waters that had gone over each of them many years before that refreshed them again. Their thirst was quenched as they knew deep inside that God was with them all along and providing for them.
They drank deep that night when they realized that all that they had, and all that they had accomplished, would not satisfy their deepest need, which is to be known and loved by God. They found for the first time that their thirsty restless hearts were quenched by God’s grace and love. They learned the truth of what St. Augustine said centuries ago. Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God.
Desmond and Molly found the living water that night. They will never thirst again. They will continue to drink from the water of life that is Jesus the Christ. They will find their thirst quenched in Jesus.
Just as Jesus offered living water to the women at the well and offered living water to Desmond and Molly, Jesus offers living water to each of us. Are you thirsty? Is your heart restless? Drink of the living water that Jesus gives and drink deeply of it so you can quench the thirst in your soul.
We as a congregation are invited to drink of the living water that Jesus offers. Our congregational heart is restless and wondering. Our congregational heart is wondering if God still cares, as we may seem like we are in the desert, without water to drink and no bucket to draw it from the well. Jesus calls to us drink.
Drink of the living water of my love for you no matter how large or small you are. Drink of the living water and be refreshed. Know that I love you in the midst of your fears and uncertainties. Drink of the living water and know that whatever past mistakes and challenges that you had, I love you any way. Drink of the living water that Jesus offers and never thirst. Like the women at the well tell people that Jesus knows everything you ever have done and loves you anyway. Drink of the living water of Jesus and never thirst. Offer that living water to all who come onto this property, to all you live around you and to the world. Let the living water of Jesus flow through you individually and together so that thirsty souls will thirst no more.
Genesis 12 and John 3 At a Crossroad March 12, 2017
The great American poet Robert Frost, wrote a short poem called The Road Not Taken. My guess is some of you may still be able to recite most if not all of it. It is short so I will read it
The Road Not Taken TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
Right now Milner Memorial is at the crossroad. There are two roads. One is the road into the future. It is unfamiliar and uncharted. The other road is the road that you are on now. The question is which road will you take? Will it be the adventurous road like Abram and Nicodemus chose? Will it be the safe road that you are traveling now?
Is the call of God for us to be safe staying with what we know, with who we know? Or is the call of God to be born anew from above and take the road less traveled that we don’t know. This is not the first time Milner has been at a crossroad. It will not be the last.
The God we serve is a God who is free. Always on the move. Always looking for people who will share the good news with their words and deeds in the places they live, to people they have yet to come to know. This God who is free and on the move calls us to follow and to go where we have never been because we trust God.
Both of our texts are about going where you are unfamiliar. Trusting God to lead you in ways you don’t know, to get you places you have never been. For Abram, it was a more literal experience. For Nicodemus, it was more of a spiritual type adventure. First the story from Genesis.
A great deal has happened between the story of the failure of human beings in the garden until God calls Abram to leave his home and go to a land that God would show him. Human beings paid a heavy price for disobedience in the garden. They we banished and sentenced to hard labor to survive. The relationship later deteriorated to the point of God destroying the earth with a flood after he separated out one faithful family to start over with. Human beings tried God’s patience again, deciding they could build their way back to paradise. God confused the languages and scattered people yet again. Now in Chapter 12 God begins one more effort to restore the broken relationship between God and humans.
God was at a crossroad. What would God do? Would God give up and stay on the road that God and humans were on, giving up on reconciliation or would God go down another road and try one more time to reconcile? God decided he would take the new road. God would form a people who were blessed by God. Their sole reason for being chosen and blessed was to be a blessing to the rest of the world. Through the people God chose, God demonstrate what it meant to live in a relationship with God. God set the plan in motion when he found Abram.
Abram was a 75 year old successful man who had made his life and his fortune in Ur of the Chaldees, which is in modern day Iraq. He was ready to live out his days enjoying the fruits of his labors. He was shocked when God came to him and started a major disruption in his life. God said to him; “Go from your country and kindred, and your father’s house to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great so you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. In you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
The plan that God had for reconciliation and restoring the tempestuous relationship between God and human beings was going to rest on a 75 year old man, who was planning on living the rest of his life in peace. God was prepared to go down a road that was uncharted, taking the risk of trusting everything to a 75 year old man, who might be convinced to start on a new adventure. It is a very risky plan. Why did God think this human being would be any more dependable that the ones before him or who were his contemporaries? Abram is at a crossroad as God is. Abram is at the crossroad of a settled life to be lived out in the comfort of what he knew. Would he act on the call of God letting go of his settled comfortable life? Abram looked down the road that he was on the road of comfort and ease, the familiar and the quiet. He studied it. He chose the other road.
Abram chose to go the road less traveled and go with God on the adventure of his lifetime to a land unknown, with challenges unknown, on the strength of a promise of blessing and to be a blessing to the world. Millennia later we have another story of two roads diverging. Will Nicodemus stay on the familiar road of being a faithful Jewish leader, respected and loved? Will he choose the unknown road and allow Jesus to make him a disciple who would work to bring God’s blessing to the world? Let’s look into this loaded and familiar encounter of a faithful man at a crossroad.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes at least three trips into Jerusalem. The other three Gospels only talk about one. It was on one of those trips that Nicodemus, a prominent Pharisee and religious leader, observes Jesus ministry of teaching. Nicodemus knows that there is something different about Jesus teaching. It touches something in Nicodemus. Nicodemus seeks out Jesus under the cover of darkness. Jesus is a controversial and disruptive presence that is causing much conversation and conflict among the faithful. Nicodemus wants to know more. He knows that it would be a risk to meet Jesus in public in the daylight. That would look like an endorsement at the best. At worst it may make him be seen as a follower.
Nicodemus has it all. He has respect, he is a leader, he is seen as faithful and a pillar of the Jewish religious establishment. His place is sealed. There is something going on inside of him. After he hears Jesus he wonders is there is something more. That feeling keeps gnawing at him until he asks Jesus if they could meet one night. Jesus agrees to the meeting. Nicodemus finds himself at a place he had never imagined. He never imagined the life altering words that Jesus would speak to him. He had no idea what they might mean. He too was at a crossroad.
Nicodemus could choose to remain who he was. He was faithful to what he knew. He was faithful to God. He would still be respected in the community and among his peers. Something would always be gnawing at him. He would always wonder if there was something more. What would be down the road that he chose not to go down.
Nicodemus did take the road that he did not know. He listened to Jesus. He asked questions. He admitted he did not understand what Jesus was asking of him. Nicodemus knew that God had spent eternity trying to heal the relationship with human beings that was broken in the garden and many other times. Jesus was telling him how God was going to do it. He struggled with understanding it.
When Nicodemus went home from that encounter with Jesus, he had chosen to go down the unfamiliar road. He was changed even though he did not realize it. Nicodemus kept watching Jesus. He kept listening to him when he could. He pondered the reports of his ministry. There was a time when the Pharisees were trying to decide what to do about Jesus.
In John 7 Nicodemus speaks in defense of Jesus. He said to his fellow Pharisees “our law does not judge people without giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing.“ His fellow Pharisees reply harshly, ‘Surely you are not from Galilee are you.” Galilee being the religious and cultural backwater of Judah.
The next time Nicodemus show up is when he and Joseph of Arimathea ask to take Jesus body down from the cross for burial. That is when we see Nicodemus had taken the road that he would not have traveled without meeting with Jesus that night. In both of these cases, Nicodemus and Abram, when they came to that crossroad and were encountered by God, they went down the road that they might not have taken otherwise.
Milner Memorial is now at a crossroad. God is calling to you. You have a choice to make just as did Abram and Nicodemus. Will you remain as you are? Or will you take the risk and allow God to bring a new birth? Will you take the risk of leaving the land you are familiar with and going to a land that I will show you like I did with Abram? God asks.
It is no secret that Milner is blessed with financial resources. It is no secret that Milner does reach out into the community in a variety of good and meaningful ways. It is no secret that our neighborhood around our property is changing. It is no secret that we are aging. We can continue what we are doing for a few more years. Then Milner can take her rest with her forbearers in faith. She will most likely hear Well done good and faithful servant on her closing day. It would be a fitting end to a life of faithful service.
The well-traveled road of a traditional understanding of ministry reaching out in traditional ways is something to be celebrated. At the same time, there is a nagging feeling that there may be more. God asks, will you leave your comfortable ways and understanding of being church and follow me into a land I will show you? Will you go with me and allow me to increase your diversity, your outreach, your membership in ways that you might not understand or imagine? Are you willing to take the risk of entering territory that you know nothing about? Are you willing to go on a journey into a land I will show you but do it only by my leading, without maps and GPS?
Are you willing to let me bring to birth, something new in this entity called Milner Memorial Presbyterian Church? Will you allow me to birth a community that may not worship in this beautiful sanctuary at 11:00 am Sunday morning but might worship on a Friday night around a table of food in the fellowship hall, that grows an ever- deepening sense of community and home?
Will you help me bring to birth and grow a worshipping community that is a small glimpse of the kingdom of God that includes young and old, gay and straight, native born and immigrant, white and a rainbow of colors? Will you help me create a place where those who have full intellectual capabilities will work to include those who have developmental challenges?
Two roads diverge on a beautiful piece of land on New Bern Avenue. We looked down as far as we could. We could not travel both. One looked familiar. It was well traveled. We think about continuing the journey down that road. It is tempting as it was familiar and easy.
We look down the other road as far as we can see. It is unfamiliar. We don’t know where it leads. We don’t know how rough it is, what the dangers are, or where the journey will end.
Will you answer God’s call and take the road less traveled. As Frost says it will make all the difference. Go down that road with Jesus. Let him lead you into something new and life giving.
Genesis 2 and Matthew 4 Giving Up Being God March 5, 2017
Ash Wednesday has come and gone Lent is underway. Lent is that season of the where we remind ourselves that we are finite human beings who one day will draw our last breath. We will remind ourselves that in life and death we belong to God. In this season, we will be reminded of the lengths and depth to which God will go to demonstrate love for us sinners. We will remind ourselves yet again that despite what we may think on our best days, we are not God. We will also remind ourselves that we never will be.
That is the rub. That is the temptation that we face all through our lives. We want so much to be God. We want to control everything, claim everything, and create our own rules for living. We keep trying and we keep getting the same results. They are never good. We learn the hard way that we are not God despite our best efforts to assume that identity and role in our lives.
The decision to be God comes from a desire to have unlimited resources, unlimited protection, and unlimited power. To get that we make a deal with the devil rather than trusting in the one true God who created us, breathed life into us and who will receive us back when our last breath leaves our bodies.
IN our texts for the morning, Genesis 2 reminds us who we are and why we are here. It reminds us that we have a purpose which is to be caregivers of God’s creation and all of its contents. We get into trouble by deciding that we wish to be like God.
Matthew 4 reminds us that the adversary wants to create a people who are defined by selfishness, and insecurity, pettiness and pride, and a need to control the things of the world. Let’s remind ourselves about who we are and to whom we belong. That will remind us what our true purpose is.
In Genesis 2 and 3 we have an account of who created us and why we were created. The storyteller says God after God created a man out of the earth. God breathed life into him and he became a living being. He came to be called Adam. Adam was given the task for taking care of the magnificent garden God had planted. God told Adam that everything in the garden was at his disposal except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eating that would cause death.
As Adam did his work God decided that he needed a helper and companion. God created one and we have gone on to call her Eve. Life was good. Adam and Eve kept the garden up. They benefited by its produce. They enjoyed the company of the other living creatures. Most important they enjoyed companionship with their creator. They enjoyed remarkable freedom in the garden. Their curiosity about the forbidden tree created an opening down a road from which they would never recover.
While she was out doing her daily tasks, the women is confronted by what the storyteller describes as a serpent. The storyteller describes the serpent as “more crafty than all the other wild animals that the Lord God had made.” The serpent strikes up a conversation.
The serpent raise the question; “did God say you shall not eat from any tree in the garden?” The women responds; “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said you shall not eat of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden”. She was correct so far but it is at this point that we begin to see a slide into the temptation of thinking we are God when she adds “nor shall you touch it or you shall die.” In the prohibition that God declared to the man the only prohibition was eating. Nothing was said about touching, looking or anything else. Then the serpent ups the stakes as the serpent seeks to cause doubt and mistrust. “The serpent says; “you will not die; for God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be open and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
With that exchange a course of action based on mistrust. God has held something back from his human creations and has not been honest with the man and women. It was very plausible to the women. Why would God do that? Why would God kill us for eating from one ; what else is God keeping from us. The tree in question is so beautiful. The fruit looks so good. It will make my life better to have this knowledge. She tastes it and it is good. She takes it to her husband and he eats it and it is good. Then what stated out so well and what seemed so reasonable went so wrong. Everything changed and it was not for the better.
They realize they are naked. They see themselves for who they are now. They do not like it. They want to hide the truth from themselves. They also think they can hide it from God. When they do not expect it God comes looking for them. They are not ready to stand before God and confess to God what God already knows. They try to hide. Finally the man knows they are busted. They have run as far as they could and now it is time to surrender.
The man said we were afraid. We saw ourselves and we did not like what we saw. We tried to hide. Who told you you were naked? They are busted and the man knows it. He is now turning on his accomplice. It is her fault. She gave me the fruit that I ate. Now the women scrambles and declares she is not going to take the fall for it. It was the serpent. He tricked me. In the end the man, the women, and the snake all paid the consequence of disobedience. The real damage done was the mistrust and distrust that was revealed and continues. It is the lack of trust that moves us to want to be God. We want to be God because we do not trust the God who created us, redeems us and sustains us.
The scripture story is one story of mistrust and distrust since then. Human beings never fully trust God to do what God says. Early on in the story of Abraham and Sarah try as they might they cannot trust that God will give them children and they take matters into their own hands and it does not turn out well. Moses gets called up to the mountain to receive the covenant with God. He is gone longer than the Hebrews are comfortable with. Aaron, Moses brother whom he left in charge takes matters into his own hands and the result is the golden calf. Before they enter the land of Canaan, ten out the twelve spies take matters into their own hands and say that the land is good but we will never be able to defeat the occupants. The result is that are stuck in the desert for many more years.
The story continues through Kings and the exile. Trust in God comes and goes. The people decide that God is God and then they decide that they know better. It is always a disaster. Then early on in the story of Jesus, Jesus is at a crossroad. What will he do? How will he work? Will he submit himself to his Father or will he be God for himself.
In Matthew 4 we have the familiar story of the temptation of Jesus. It is the most famous but there are others that we tend to overlook. In this one, Jesus is driven by the Holy Spirit to go into the wilderness for a time of preparation for his work. This was after he submitted to baptism and the public announcement of his ministry.
In this wonderfully told story Jesus is at the end of a forty- day solitary fast in the wilderness. The tempter comes to him when he is most vulnerable. None of the gospel writers describe what the tempter looks like we can let our imaginations fill in the details. The first temptation goes to Jesus hunger. The tempter knows who Jesus is. It is not a matter of Jesus trying o embrace who he is. The tempter says since you are the Son of God turn these stones into bread. Eat.
With the mention of bread Jesus stomach rumbles. Jesus thinks I could do this. I am the son of God. The rocks belong to my father. Surely he would not deny me food now. His mind starts to convince him he smells bread baking. Will Jesus do it?
The stakes are too high. I trust my father to provide. He says to the tempter “one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” He is safe for now. Round one goes to Jesus. Before Jesus recovers from that encounter the tempter is back again. They go to the highest point of the temple. The tempter goes to work again. “Since you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.” The tempter then ups the ante. The tempter says “It is written He will command his angels concerning you and on their hands they will bear you up so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” What the tempter is really asking is Do you trust God? If you do Jesus jump off. Show your trust.
Jesus knows that trust is inherent. It comes from love and a deep relationship. Trust does not have to be proven. It is taken by faith in the one being trusted. It is the lack of trust that got humans in trouble in the first place and is usually at the root of most of our problems that drive us to want to be God.
Jesus fires back; It is written; do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Putting God to the test and daring God not to come thorough is crassly showing distrust and asking God to prove that he is trustworthy. That is when we have decided that we are God and God owes loyalty and trust to us. Some time passes and Jesus is put to the test again.
This time the tempter goes for broke. The tempter goes for the desire for power that we human beings think we long for. Once again they travel. They see all the kingdoms of the world. Jesus they can all be yours. Everything you can see is yours. All you have to do is worship me. Jesus did not hesitate a long time. “Away with you Satan! It is written Worship the Lord your God and serve only God.” The price of power was too high. That last offer would cost Jesus everything; his relationship with his father in heaven, his mission to bring salvation, his self-respect and it was not worth it.
You and I face temptations every day. At the deepest level, they are all temptations to be God in our lives. They are temptations to want to control our lives, to mistrust God, and to want protections against any and all harm. These temptations lead us to self-preservation, attempted deal making and ultimately trying to be God.
Back in the late 1960’s Simon and Garfunkel had a number one hit song entitled ‘I Am a Rock”. At first the song title sounds like a compliment. Sometimes we say he or she is a rock meaning they are strong and immovable. They are a strong foundation. That is not what the songwriters have in mind. It is a song about self-preservation. The song writer Paul Simon writes in verse 2; “I’ve built walls a fortress deep and mighty that none may penetrate. I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain. Its laughter and its loving I disdain. I am a rock. I am an Island and a rock feels no pain.” Verse 3 talks about the pain of lost love and how there are other things that are not as painful. Verse four says that my poetry and books will protect me I am shielded in my self made armor. The haunting last line that is added to the last refrain is this “ a rock feels no pain and an island never cries.”
We are tempted to that kind of self preservation that shuts out all others because we do not want to take the risk of being hurt, taken advantage of, be disappointed or anything else. We cannot fulfill our purpose to tend for and care for the garden of God and its inhabitents. We are also tempted to deal making.
If you will give me this I will do this is a common human plea. If I change will you stay. If I improve my performance can I keep my job. I will pay for the damage if you do not call the police. I can change give me another chance. These are all deal making. We do this with God. God if I recover from this I will eat better, exercise more, rest more. God if you will bring back my runaway child I will do better. It is our way of trying to be in control and assuming the role of God. It is a temptation that seems so right to us. It seems like we are acknowledging that we bear some responsibility for our situation but we are less than willing to accept full consequences for our actions. We want God to bail us out. We think that we have something to offer that God wants. The truth is we have nothing to offer God to compel God to act in a way we desire. The only thing we have to offer to God is our love and devotion, our trust and willingness to go to places that God wants to take us. The third temptation is the overarching one. It is the temptation to be God.