Sermon given at LH & GH (inc Adult Baptism) 5.3.17
Readings: OT/Epistle Psalm 32 Gospel Matthew 4: 1-11
Why do you think the first thing a baby learns to do is to smile? It’s to entrance and attach its parents to ensure that the helpless and demanding baby continues to get the care it needs to survive!! And that’s just the beginning! One of the reasons I love Little Fishes is because it’s fascinating watching toddlers as they begin to learn how to get their own way.
One of the advantages of grandparenthood is that you can see all this going on while not being as closely involved as parents are – small children become masters at manipulation! It’s surprising how quickly younger siblings learn which buttons to press to annoy or get their own way with their older brothers and sisters! We all learn power play from a VERY young age!
So it’s not surprising that it becomes very ingrained in us – so ingrained that we’re not always fully aware of our own selfishness, and the ways we exercise power in our own families, workplaces and communities.
Jesus’ baptism came at the moment in his life when his relationship with his heavenly Father was strong enough to enable him to demonstrate and reveal to us God’s salvation plan. It had come to the point where Jesus could exercise divine power – so the very next thing to happen was for the Holy Spirit to drive him into the wilderness where basically Jesus was tempted to use that power for the wrong purposes, to use it for normal human selfish purposes.
The devil even used scripture to disguise the temptations and make them look perfectly OK! But Jesus recognised the deception and refused to give in to any of the temptations – he knew that power used wrongly is destructive – immensely destructive to the good human relationships we all need in order to live life to the full.
In the Christianity Explored course we’ve been reading our way through Mark’s Gospel and it’s surprising how often Jesus has to correct his disciples, and how long it takes for him to teach them NOT to use power the way we humans normally do! The first will be last, he keeps saying – I came not to be served but to give my life as a ransom for many.
And that’s what Lentern disciplines are meant to be about. Giving something up for Lent is NOT meant to be a dreary thing – it’s meant to be a way of thinking about our habits. Have we become reliant on certain foods, drinks, or other things to make us feel OK, rather than the treats they’re meant to be! Have any selfish or bad habits crept into our lives that might becoming ingrained in us?
We weren’t made bad and none of us want to be bad, but it can be hard to stay on track and to keep the resolutions we make. We know we need some help!! This week, in Christianity Explored, we were reminded that “We are more sinful than we ever realised – and more loved than we can begin to imagine.”
God created us, he knows how we’re made, he knows in minute detail the background to each of our lives – he understands us inside out. And he loves us beyond our imagination! He wants so much for us to live life to the max that he’s constantly offering us forgiveness, guidance – and holy power to live real life!
As children grow up they naturally try to please their parents – they glow when praised. And without realising it we begin to base our self-esteem on being liked and praised – we base our identity on our achievements.
But Jesus shows us that we CANNOT be good enough to earn God’s love – God just wants us to come to him AS WE ARE – recognising our limitations as babies and young children do, and therefore open handed and trusting like a small child approaches its parents. He wants us to come to him simply because he loves us. We are God’s children – LOVE is our identity, nothing else.
And that’s the wonder of the gospel – that we are loved so much by God – and no matter what happens we don’t have to struggle with life on our own. So make time this Lent to simply reflect on God’s love for you, and to FEEL THAT LOVE. It’s SO much better than chocolate! It is the most amazing gift any of us can receive.
And welcome to God’s family Mark – I pray that you will know and experience more and more of God’s love as you journey through life.