May the words of my lips and the meditations of all our hearts be always acceptable to you, my Lord and my Savior! Amen
I am going to ask for a time that you imagine yourself in the place and time of Jesus. He has been walking around the villages of Israel, from lake to mountain top teaching about the kingdom of God, healing the sick and speaking words of comfort to the poor.
Jesus has gathered a crowd of people, and a great number of disciples at this time. You know that this crowd has become problematic, needing to be fed, and being so demanding that Jesus has been forced to crawl into a boat and row out in the lake to be able to speak to them comfortably.
Yet, as he passes by you, he looks straight at you and nods to you to come along with him. You slip in behind him, and one of the disciples grabs your hand. You follow along, right in the footsteps of Jesus.
Jesus is heading down a dusty road toward a large level plain. As he walks, he kicks up some dust which covers you and your companions. You are in a most sacred space, covered in sacred dust.
• Something that is sacred is believed to be holy and to have a special connection with God… As followers of Jesus, we also walk in his sacred space, all the time, every day and you and I have that special connection with God. And boy, does that ever come with responsibility to God.
As Jesus turns to speak, again, he looks into your eyes and you know his words are just for you. And what he says is totally extraordinary!
Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who abuse you.
Jesus totally reverses human thinking about enemies and forgiveness. Here, Jesus is spelling out the way God goes about things, holding nothing against us despite our failings.
If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.
About five hundred years before Jesus, the great Chinese philosopher, Confucius lived. One of his famous maxims was, “Do not do to others what you would not want others to do to you.”
There was a powerful Jewish rabbi (teacher) who lived around the time of Jesus, whose name was Hillel. It is said that once a pagan came to Hillel and told the Rabbi that if he could recite the entire Jewish Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) while standing on one leg, then he would convert to Judaism. Hillel replied, “What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor; that is the whole Torah, while the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.”
Now listen to the way Jesus says these familiar words: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Confucius and Hillel phrased the lesson in the form of what you should not do. Jesus turns this around to make the commandment positive – this is what you do…”Do to others as you would have them do to you.” God will not accept a passive “do no harm” kind of disciple; he wants us to be out there doing.
Then Jesus hits the crowd with another directive: Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.
I have a story that happened to me some years ago, but that I will always remember vividly.
I worked for a time in early childhood education as a resource teacher. My children were those with special needs, and often the families of these children needed interventions as well.
One little boy had been removed from the home by the Children’s Aid Society. He continued to attend the day care in the mornings where he received a variety of therapies under my care.
This little fellow’s father happened to be released from jail where he had served a sentence for assault just at this time.
I had just arrived to work one morning when I took a phone call from this father who told me he was on his way in to the centre to see us. He was a frightening man, brusk and threatening. I managed to put him off for a half hour when I knew my supervisor would be in and the big strong speech pathologist would be working with the child away from the rest of the class.
I was literally shaking, so scared I was. He arrived about the same time as my supervisor and we went into her office and closed the door.
I have to give so much credit to my boss, who opened the conversation in a genuinely caring, quiet way. We listened to this heartbroken man tell us of the pain he was in and his worry for the welfare of his children. By the end of the interview this scary man was crying and he left the centre without trying to see or take his son.
How differently everything could have things turned out if we had approached him with judgements and harsh words.
Some of the wisest words I have ever heard Dr. Phil say on his show is:
“ Hating someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other guy to die.”
I struggled a bit with two words in this scripture: enemy and sinner.
A definition of enemy could be:
An enemy is a person who actively opposes someone or something, who is hostile or unfriendly.
I hope that not many of us have enemies who actively wish us ill. Because of the translation from Latin, enemy can also be understood as “someone who is not a friend.”
With this understanding of the word, there are many, many people out there who are not our friends.
Likewise we can look at the word sin as an act of transgression against divine or natural law. Or we can translate a sinner as “one who has lost his way, and has through his thoughts or deeds, endangered the relationship between him and God.”
I believe that is every one of us every day.
In this wonderful family of Prince of Peace we have many friends. And we have something that we can give over and over without losing any of it: God’s love.
We know the peace that the world cannot give.
We may look at others who are not in our group of friends as belonging to that other group called “not a friend”. What if they were to come into this church and cause change to the wonderful chemistry that we are experiencing with only our friends. I confess that I have had these thoughts about some that I would rather not have attend “my church”.
As people in relationship with God, we are called to love, do good, bless, pray for, forgive, refrain from condemnation, and judgement.
We are called to extend our hands to anyone who wishes to walk with us in the footsteps of Jesus, and to ease them on their journey. We need to share our sacred dust with them.
I am certain you can all name one or two people who walked hand in hand with you.
Today I ask that we all become just a little more aware of those in the “not our friend” group. If they are in the community, bring them into our communion. If they are newcomers to the church, let’s expand that tight friend circle and draw them in. Make room. There is lots of love to go around and it never runs out.
What a joyful gift we have to share!
Let us pray:
Lord, I am the focus of your indiscriminate love. Grant me a profound appreciation of this limitless gift. Transformed by this love, may I in turn show unrestricted loving to others-especially to my enemies!
Help us live like we are loved!
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Amen
Reading the passage in Luke, the actual temptations of Christ may or may not apply to us in our day to day lives. But being tempted certainly does.
Consider this … Christ had just spent an indeterminate amount of time in the Judean desert without food and water. He was quite possibly half delirious with thirst and weak with hunger. If the great deceiver had any chance of success this was probably the time. However Christ thwarted him by not giving in to his temptations reducing Satan’s efforts to not much more than a nuisance.
And for me personally the part of the passage that really caught my attention was the last sentence.
“Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.” Especially the ‘opportune time’, opportune for Satan not for us. We don’t get to pick and choose the time and place for our temptations to occur.
Temptation will happen to us when we are the weakest and this includes being stressed. It won’t work with strong and aware, faithful people.
For us in our day to day what is temptation?
Temptation is a desire to engage in short-term urges for enjoyment, that threatens long-term goals. In the context of some religions, temptation is the inclination to sin. Temptation also describes the coaxing or inducing a person into committing such an act, by manipulation or otherwise of curiosity, desire or fear of loss.
In other words the desire to engage in self-destructive behaviour, however seemingly innocent. This behaviour can even be perfectly legal and acceptable by society at large. If I come home from work every day stressed and have a couple of strong drinks to calm my nerves down I am not doing my family or myself any favours. Substitute marijuana for alcohol. Or hiding in my basement looking at porn for three or four hours each night. Again the effect on you and your family is far reaching. And I have not gotten to on-line and OLG gambling.
When and to whom does it occur?
The ignorant and naïve
The powerful who think that they are above it all
Ordinary people in a moment of weakness (ie Doctor drug addicts)
Historical Biblical Temptation
Other than Jesus most Biblical temptation occurs in the Old Testament
Temptation of Eve
Temptation of David over Bethesda
My Own experience with Temptation
Rita Mae Brown, an American author, has a quote on temptation.
“Lead me not into temptation, I can find the way myself.”
That was me. I swear that when I was in my teens and early to mid-twenties the devil had me on his speed dial.
Difficult childhood rebellion taste for the dark side
That was my experience growing up in my teens and early twenties. I was a poster child for giving into temptation and subsequently getting into trouble. And for me it was a double life, on one hand I was an altar boy at St John the Divine in North Bay and on the other hand I was generally hanging out with criminal elements and bad boys in pool halls.
And it was a long journey to break the chains of drugs and alcohol and general nastiness. I basically had to move to another city and sever my ties with everyone and everything and start over. And there was no going back.
But that is another story.
Whatever the reason I was weak to certain elements of temptation many of which do not exist today and the elements that do exist I am thankfully strong enough to walk away from.
Where does temptation today come from?
Temptation today is sophisticated, electronic and fueled by capitalism and greed. The great deceiver has discovered the media and his greatest tool, the internet.
It’s ‘legal’ so it’s ok
Fact: Pornography is the largest industry in North America, even bigger that the auto industry
5% of our population has addiction issues.
Opioid crisis – ask the police or and ER nurse how that is working out.
Gambling? The ads want you to have fun and relax and gamble so the business can have a successful year. At the end of their radio ads you are told to “know your limit play within it.” One radio ad from several years ago for Georgian Downs suggested that after you drop your kids off at school come on over for a couple hours of relaxation.
Websites devoted to adultery.
You can look at or buy anything on the internet. A convicted drug dealer in Barrie was buying his fentanal in bulk from China on the internet.
Temptation neither constitutes nor necessarily leads to sin. Temptation could not destroy Christ’s sinlessness, and his temptations were entirely like those of all humans. Still more, succumbing to temptation is never inevitable. And if it is succumbed or yielded to, forgiveness is available through Christ.
On the negative side, as Christians, we feel powerless, that we can do nothing to halt or prevent these scourges from growing. They are just too big and we are too small.
But we can: If you cannot do something I am not going to vote for you in the next election
I find what you advertise in offensive I am not going to buy your product.
And there are a lot more like me…