Is Jesus walking with you?

The Word This Week:

Thoughts on the Word:

It’s a remarkable story isn’t it – one that we perhaps have trouble understanding – how could Mary and Joseph leave and head off on their journey without Jesus?

I remember when I was growing up, I was able to have pretty much free reign, I just had to be home by dark, otherwise I was allowed to ride off on my bike with friends, head off to the park, walk to and from school unaccompanied… things have changed haven’t they…

Things were different 2000 years ago in Israel too.  Back then it was assumed that your children were safe as part of your wider family and friends.  There was no need to be chasing up and supervising their every move because of the communal nature of society.  Whilst not everyone was related by blood, everyone had a shared family responsibility in the care and raising of children and in caring for and showing love for each other. We are called to the same vocation now as members of God’s family. 
Joseph and Mary when they realized that Jesus is in fact missing, frantically race back to Jerusalem and begin to desperately search for their son – can you imagine the panic and pain in their hearts as they searched for him for three days?  Then they find him – not where they were expecting, clearly and Mary like many of us as parents, turned the blame on Jesus – she didn’t you’ll note, say Jesus we are so sorry that we left you behind!  Mary no doubt feeling both relief and frustration accusingly asks Jesus why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been searching for you!

Jesus though will have none of that, he simply says respectfully Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? Or another way of translating it would be didn’t you know I have to be doing my fathers work.

Like Mary and Joseph, we sometimes take for granted that Jesus is walking with us on the journeys we take in life.  We become so focussed on what our own priorities and our opwn goals are that we forget to check in with him and see if he is still walking with us. 

We may want to reflect on whether we have taken Jesus himself for granted; if Mary and Joseph could do it, there is every reason to suppose that we can too. We mustn’t assume he is accompanying us as we go off on our own business. If we become distracted by the business of this world instead of focusing on the business of God and his Kingdom we may well find that we have left Jesus behind.  But if and when we sense the lack of his presence, we must be prepared to hunt for him, to search for him in prayer, in the scriptures, in the sacraments, and not to give up until we find him again.

We must be ready too, that when we do meet him again he may not say or do what we expect. When we find him if we challenge him and accusingly ask where have you been? He may well challenge us, just as he did Mary and Joseph, after all he is busy with his father’s work, and so too should we be.

During this time of year, when we are often recovering from our time spent with family over Christmas – or for others, still dealing with the pain of not having family with us, it is important that we step back and take time to give thanks for what we do have.  When we grasp that gift of forgiveness that Jesus is holding out to us, we become a part of a bigger family, a family that is made up of people just like you – some are rich, some are poor.  Some were raised in Christian homes – others like me are adult converts, some have never had a run in with the law, and others are reformed thieves, addicts and even murderers.  None of them perfect, some of them like your blood relatives will drive you mad, but the thing that unites us, the thing that makes us brothers and sisters, is not blood.  It is that we have all been remade, through the forgiveness and redemption given to us through accepting Jesus our old selves are buried and we rise remade as members of the body – the family – of Christ.

However when we are adopted into the family of God we also take on the responsibilies associated with being in that family.  We as members of the family of God, as heirs and inheritors of his Kingdom are called to be about our fathers work.  We are called to be living lives which speak of our transformation, lives which draw others to seek out God’s Kingdom, and for them also to be adopted as our brothers and sisters.

Paul in the letter to the Colossians tells us how we as God’s chosen ones, God’s family, are to live out our calling, he tells us how to be about our fathers business.  And so I want to conclude by simply reading those word to you again.
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Sunday 14th February 2016 – Temptations 



PictureTemptation of Christ – Vasily Surikov

The Word This Week:

A sermon on the Word: 

This week as we come to the first Sunday in our Lenten journey we encounter Jesus, the human being, being tempted by Satan.  We find him in the wilderness, having been fasting for 40 days, his body would be screaming at him to eat something – anything.  How easy it would be to listen to Satan, at this point when He is at his weakest.  We can assume that he is emotionally and mentally drained after enduring 40 days of temptation and torment from Satan and that as a human being just like us he would be becoming desperate to break free of this torment and return home to comfort and shelter – to food! Yet Jesus does something remarkable – something that we all must look to in our own struggles and through our own temptations.  

When he is literally starving Satan whispers in his ear – If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Oh how truly tempting it must have been for the Jesus to say yes to Satan’s temptation.  After 40 days he could simply say to this stone ‘become bread’ and he could have his fill.  Yet our saviour doesn’t say ‘become bread’ … he rather replies “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”  This is a quotation from Deuteronomy 8:3 which says – He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

You see when he is tempted to follow his own desires – to fulfil his own wants and needs instead of God’s he turns to the Word of God – and he refutes the Devil’s temptation by declaring that he lives on the Word of God – and not of earthly things. Satan by now is becoming desperate – after all he has been trying to get this bloke to crack for 40 days, and even now in His state of weakness and desperation he still won’t turn away from God.  So he shows Jesus all the Kingdoms of the World, and offers Him dominion over all of them if only He will bow down and worship Satan.  Now this may have been tempting – after all think of all the good that could be done if Jesus was in complete control of the world, the oppressive Roman empire would be transformed into a Utopian paradise – yet the price for this is to turn from God and worship Satan.  Jesus again turns to his knowledge of the Word of God to reject Satan’s offer “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”  again he draws from the book of Deuteronomy, this time chapter 6 verse 13 which says – The Lord your God you shall fear; him you shall serve, and by his name alone you shall swear. Despite what good could come from accepting the temptation of Satan, Jesus knew that in doing so he would be committing a grievous act – he would be turning His back on the creator and sustainer of all things – No matter how good it seemed, nothing is worth turning your back on God and bowing down to Satan, or any other false God, as the remainder of Deuteronomy 6 makes clear.

Finally, Satan in a final act of desperation tempts Jesus to throw Himself from the temple – this time attempting to use God’s Word to confuse and trick Jesus.  Satan quotes from Psalm 91:11-12, in order to show that Jesus is under the protection of God and can do whatever he pleases.  Jesus’ reply – “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” is a direct quote from Deuteronomy 6:16 .

Jesus rejects all of Satan’s offers, no temptation that the evil one can muster up is enough to make Jesus turn away from God.  You see this whole passage is about something that affects all of us, just as much as it affected Jesus.  It is about choice.  Jesus has free will, just as every human who has ever lived has free will.  Jesus could have chosen of his own free will to turn that rock into bread, or to rule the world’s kingdoms, He could have thrown Himself off that temple, confident that He would be caught by the hands of Angels – yet he did not.  Jesus made a different choice… every time He was tempted to sin, Jesus made the conscious decision to be obedient to God.   Obedience to the will of God is what Jesus exemplifies, and it is what He calls us to also.  When we are tempted to go the way of the world, just as Jesus was in this Gospel account, we are being presented with an opportunity to make a choice – do we listen to the voice of Satan whispering in our ear, or do we instead choose obedience to God.  
In a few minutes we are going to baptise little Rex, but before we do his parents and God parents will make some solemn promises about their own faith and trust in God and about their commitment to help Rex grow in the sure knowledge of God’s love for him.  They will promise to reject sin, they will renounce evil and reject selfishness and all that is false and unjust. And the final commitment they will make is to seek to live their whole lives following the will of God.  Of course all of us who have been confirmed, or who were baptised as adults have also made these promises.

Many will say though, ‘but how do I determine what the will of God is? …
I want you to pay close attention as I read to you Jesus’ responses to Satan’s temptations.  

“It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” 

“It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 

“It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Did you notice something familiar in each of those responses?  It is written; It is written; it is said… Jesus points us to the Word of God in order to show us the will of God!  There is no better way for you to learn the will of God for your life than to be familiar with His Word.  We must build a relationship with God modelled on Jesus, and His relationship with God. 
You will remember throughout the Gospel accounts we repeatedly see Jesus in prayer, often away from others.  You see Jesus gives us the model, and sets us the example.  The only question is are we ready to follow Him?

I encourage all of you to reflect on this reading, and especially on Jesus willingness to be obedient to God, even in the face of extreme hardship.  I pray that you fortify your own hearts against the temptations of this world through deepening your knowledge of the Word of God, and through regular prayer. 

Finally take heart, because while you may have missed it, the Spirit of God never left Jesus during His temptation and hardships.  Our Gospel account tells us at the outset that Jesus was ‘led by the Spirit in the wilderness…’  It doesn’t say that the spirit took him out there and left Him – but that it led Him during His temptation.  Likewise the Spirit of God is always with us, and will give us strength to endure any temptation or hardship.