The First Sunday in Lent E. Bevan Stanley March 6, 2022 Year C Deuteronomy 26:1-11 Romans 10:8b-13 Luke 4:1-13 Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 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. In the Name of the one, holy, and undivided Trinity. Amen. As I pointed out on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a time for honesty and humility. It is a time to get real about ourselves. I wonder if the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness was also a time for him to get real about who he was. This was not an accident or something that just happened to him; it was God’s doing. Twice the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the first verse. Jesus was full of the Spirit when he returned from being baptized by John in the Jordan River. Then it says that he was led by the Spirit in the wilderness where he was tempted by the devil. It is interesting that our best texts say that the Spirit led Jesus in the desert, and one changes it to into the desert. That is to say, that in Luke’s telling of the story, the Spirit stayed with Jesus throughout the time of the temptations. She did not just get him to the desert where he could meet the devil and then left him. This is true for us as well. Whenever we face a temptation, the Holy Spirit leads us in the wilderness. We can accept that help or reject it, but it is always there. Let us look at the specific temptations of which we are told. First, is the temptation to meet my bodily needs. Jesus is hungry and undoubtedly weak after forty days with no food. He might be close to death. The devil says, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” He sets it as a test of who Jesus is. “If you are the Son of God, if the voice you heard when you were baptized is not lying, then save yourself. If I were in Jesus’ place, I would not be worrying much about who I was or whether God were lying; I would just want to eat something. But as we postulated at the beginning Lent and Jesus time in the wilderness are both about getting real about who we are. For Jesus, the question is will he take on all that it means to be fully human? Will he embrace being mortal? Is he willing to lay aside his divinity fully and be one of us? Jesus responds, by saying, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” This is a quotation from Deuteronomy. If we hear the whole verse and the one before, it is even more apropos: “You shall remember all the way the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.” The purpose of the time in the wilderness for the Israelites and for Jesus and for us in Lent is the same: to test what is in our hearts, whether we would keep God’s commandments. It is a time for humility which is exemplified by the experience of hunger. We understand that we cannot live without sustenance from God. This sustenance is both material, the manna from heaven, and spiritual, the word of God. In a way Jesus’ response to the devil is, “It doesn’t matter if I am the Son of God. I am Jew and we Jews know that our God guides us in every desert and feed us both with physical food and spiritual.” In the second temptation the devil offers Jesus the means to fulfill his mission to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. The devil says in effect, “So you came to usher in the Kingdom of God, did you? That is easy. I can give you authority over all the kingdoms of the world, and you can do anything you want. The world will be fixed and everyone will live in peace and prosperity. Just worship me instead of God.” Jesus says he cannot break the first commandment: I am the LORD your God, who brough you out of the Land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.” Furthermore, I am a human. I must confine my actions to what humans are able to do. That means that I can only establish the Kingdom of God by inviting other human beings to join in that effort. I cannot simply dictate that everyone will behave well. That would be slavery and coercion, not the way of love. The third temptation follows on Jesus’ response to the second. The devil says, “If you will not use coercion to establish the Kingdom and insist on trying to sell this to other human beings, why not get their attention by some spectacular stunt that will show them how special you are. You are the long awaited Messiah after all. Throw yourself off the tower of the temple in Jerusalem, and everyone can see the angels of God catch you as it says in Psalm 91.” Jesus again repeats a lesson learned during the time that the Israelites were in the wilderness, “You shall not but the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.” Massah is the place where the Israelites complained about the lack of water, and Moses struck the rock with his staff and water came out. Jesus’ temptations, and ours, are about who he is and how to carry out his mission. Do we really believe we, too, are children of God because God adopted us when we were baptized? Do we believe that God will take care of our physical and spiritual needs? Do we believe that we have all the tools we need to carry out God’s plan or destiny for us? Do we understand that what is lacking in our power can be made up for by working with other people and with God? Do we understand that we do not need to be exceptional to get the job done? Are we clear and focused that our mission is to build the Kingdom of God on earth by loving God and loving our neighbor? This is what Lent is for. This is why the Holy Spirit invites us into our own wilderness: to get real about who we are and what our mission is.