What does it mean to be tempted? The definition of it suggests that temptation is the desire to engage in short term actions for pleasure, that derail or confuse our long term goals. But what does that mean? Well, buying that all inclusive gold star vacation package holiday on credit, while saving for a house is an example of temptation. We feel we need that vacation because of how hard we are working, even though we can’t actually afford it, which puts us in deeper debt and delays our goals of long term stability in owning a house. But is that all that Lent is about, avoiding temptations? Well, no, because it's more than just temptations, it's about tending a deeper relationship which helps us see the direction we are meant to live in everyday. Lent is about refocusing our soul on the long term goals of our lives, to focus on what really matters.
It would be a stretch to suggest that the temptations of Jesus, who faced the devil after 40 days in the wilderness without food, are commiserate with our modern day existence. Taking a vacation over saving for a house, or giving into that second glass of whiskey after dinner is not the devil. However, we do face temptations that pull us into the direct crosshairs of the devil. We live in a world full of comfort and privilege, of enormous wealth, and horrendous poverty. As we become more equipped with technology and progress, we become more isolated and lonely. This pulling apart, this divergence to difference, this isolation is the temptation of the devil that Jesus faced. The devil is a force in our lives that works to keep us apart, to keep us down, to keep us isolated, scared, and fearful in a way that as Christians is neither life giving or possible because of the new life we have in Jesus. Yet, one only needs to turn on the TV to hear and see the ways in which the devil is trying to pull apart our world with wars, hate, phobias, terror, fear, isolation, and aggression. And it is easy too, as members of this world for us to take sides, and sometimes to ignore what we hear and see because it does not affect us. However, when something is done to the least of us, it is done to all of us. When Indigenous elders are arrested for standing up for their right to speak and be heard on their lands, we are all arrested. When one of us struggles alone in isolation through mental health challenges, we all struggle. When one of us goes hungry, we all go hungry, because we are connected in this shared humanity. The key to that connection is how we choose to respond to what we see because of what matters to us.
The Christ of the Lenten desert was being pulled by the temptations of an earthly kingdom of glory and ease, yet as we heard on Ash Wednesday- Sic Transit Gloria Mundi- thus passes the glory of this world, from ashes into ashes. The false idols we embrace in our lives that promise us ease, longevity, peace, safety, prosperity, always fail us. We still have to work hard for what we have, even when we have too much, we have to work harder to preserve what we have because wealth is a non renewable resource because of how it's exposed to risks in the stock markets. We all die, no matter what supplements we take or diets we follow. We will all die, we can not pay to stay alive. We live in a legalistic society which no matter how hard we try, we still hate each other, cause pain and division- we still can't seem to buy peace or safety. But we put our hope and desires in these avenues of salvation in the hopes that they will give us what we’ve always wanted, a life full of health, love, and purpose. Yet, Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, thus passes the glory of this world, from ashes to ashes. Lent therefore asks us to look deeply and live differently because of what truly matters to us, a right relationship with Christ.
Living in a right relationship is not about being right, while someone else is wrong. It's about being true to who we are deep down, under all our masks and facades. It's about living into our capacity for incredible generosity of spirit and the hospitality of Christ to all that we meet, especially in the midst of all the temptations we face in our world. It's about moving past the idea that tomorrow will be better than today, to find ways to transform our present reality into a foretaste of the kingdom of God in our midst. A kingdom where there is enough, where we are enough, where humanity and love govern all our decisions rather than fear and hate, where the homeless have names, kids have food, isolation is an antiquated term because community is the norm. This is not a pipe dream either, this is a living reality which Lent asks us to focus on as we re-commit ourselves to what matters, because at the end of our lives at the end of this world, all of our little kingdoms of power and isolation will mean nothing in the face of the kingdom of God.
So as you and I begin our pilgrimage together, as you and I reflect on what matters in our life, our gospel this morning gives us the Christ of Matthew whose whole purpose in Matthew is to bring us healing, healing which is deeply needed in the midst of the pain this world and its temptations inflict on us. You and I are in the wilderness together today, walking, listening, praying, for a closer relationship with Christ, a relationship that not only transforms us but the world around us. As we journey give over to God that which does not bring you life, the anger, the doubt, the worry, the dependencies, the false sense of self, and hold onto what is good says 1 Thessalonians, that good that is our free self, our creative self, our loving self, our generous self, our relational self, our inquisitive and inquiring self, our self that is formed and made in the image of God which is made for love in this world. We focus on these aspects, while giving up the death we live with, so that we may know what is good when we are tested by the devil in a life that gives us pain, isolation, and terror, and testify with our lives that only love wins in the name of Christ. This Lent, I invite you to go deeper with me in one of our two Lenten programs, to worship fully, and to recommit yourself to the ministry of this parish which is transforming this neighbourhood, because the only legacy that matters for us at the end of our lives, is not our own kingdoms but is the Good News of Christ, a way of life we are living together in this place, a way of life which is calling you and I to name this Lent what really matters to us and to live that everyday.