Sunday, February 14, 2016

An Opportune Time: A Sermon

An Opportune Time

         Good morning class. I’m professor Faust.
         This is Deviling 102: Temptations. If you are here for Torture 206: Advanced Bagpiping, that’s down the hall on the right, I don’t want another mishap like last week.

         Today we’ll be coving the opportune time.
         I hope everyone has read the primary documents in preparation for today’s lecture, the 4th Chapter of Dr. Luke’s Gospel
         (point) What, you didn’t… Why not?
(wait) you were busy watching the politicians rip one another apart the last few nights… that’s fair—I’ve always said never let schooling get in the way of your education.

         Today we read of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. He’d just been declared Son of God… This was a powerful day for the Enemy, like a coronation or the start of an invasion
         Satan tried to blunt this attack upon our control of the world in a crafty way, by defining the terms
—if we get to define what “Son of God” means, we’re half-way to victory right there.
         The Christian’s Saint Augustine was right in describing our subtlety
—at our best we misuse the good.
Outright evil is rarely useful, instead taking their weapons and turning them around …
a spiritual jujitsu if you will…
that my pupils, that’s where we can draw real blood.
Why? you ask. Because humans have some sense of propriety, not much mind you, but when confronted by absolute evil, they’ll stand fast, but dealing with misused good? They don’t have a prayer… I say that in the colloquial of course, prayer is, unfortunately, a mighty, if often unused, weapon of the Christian.
Where was I? Yes, defining the terms. Satan takes this powerful name, title, vocation, “Son of God” and tries to hack Jesus away from his Father—dismember that divine relationship.
         Unfortunately, Jesus would have none of it.
         Famished though he was, he did not make bread the totality of his relationship with God,
powerless though he was, he did not see power as an end to be sought,
humbled and vulnerable though he was, he did not see safety and glory as his goal.

         Of course, all that is background. It leads us to today’s lesson, Satan departing “until an opportune time.” This is read as the last temptation of Christ, the betrayal, abandoning, and cross—Satan waiting in the wings for “Good” Friday.
            But, I would suggest, dear little Devils, that there are other opportune times that Satan finds, that each of us as we go about the business of temptation, can find, to tempt all those Children of God, offer a misused good in exchange for their Identities as Children of God!

         Let’s step out of the ivory tower for a second and get practical… Satan comes to Jesus when he’s hungry and offers bread… you all are going to be working in New Jersey when you graduate, right… what might they be starved for?
--No, that’s an ugly stereotype about people from New Jersey.
 --Time! I like that… Let’s assume people from New Jersey are starved for time.
         So, go out there and offer it to them.
         Give them all the time they need. Give them minute rice, machines that wash clothing and dishes, shopping and banks done by phone and on the internet. Tell them to go and enjoy it.
-No… no… Not everyone could hear him. He said “You can’t do that! Imagine what they’ll do with all that free time.” He mentioned how Luther prayed for an hour each morning, two if he was busy.
         Don’t worry. They’ll take time, and kill it. They’ll waste it. They’ll find millions of ways to dump it down the drain, all the while afraid that they’re not making the most of it.

         Well, time management isn’t ultimately, about efficiency, it’s about choices. It is about seizing a goal and going for it. Having a vision, holding onto values and investing time in those things and not in others…
         These humans, they’re rudderless, give them all the time in the world, I’m almost positive they won’t choose their Baptismal Identity as their goal.

         What else was offered up?
-Yes, Power! And not just a little power, but imperial power. Satan offered Jesus authority over all nations. He essentially offered him Roman power. Offered him the ability to topple nations, and actually change the cultures and values of other people. It’s God-like isn’t it?
         Here’s the trick, we can even inject that kind of hubris into nations that see themselves as Christian—in fact, when a nation state makes a religious claim like that, as if any entity can see itself as completely bearing the image of God—the Church, our great enemy, doesn’t even claim that, when they make such claims, they’re ripe for the picking, so self-assured they won’t even notice we’ve turned them! Imagine the sins that can be ignored if you think you’re doing them in the name of God.
         Yes, taking the good and turning it to its worst… believe me this place is filled with the souls of self-assured, self-righteous, nations.

         And what was that third temptation? ah yes… Safety and Glory… they might seem dissimilar at first, but once you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.
A bloodless Christianity is one where there is no risk involved, nothing on the table, one without sacrifice—total safety…
and at the same time, one that revels in it all, so entranced with itself that it doesn’t notice that God has left the building, one that encourages worshippers to say “Thank God I’m not like that sinner over there!”
Our greatest ally is a people who seek easy answers and miracles when God is calling for martyrs and adventurers. Safety and Glory is nothing short of Sin itself, heads shoved so far into belly buttons that there is no coming back!

         I think my time is about up… the big picture of today’s lecture is this: misusing the good is an excellent way to tempt humans,
Satan’s paradigm of tempting Jesus “Pleasure, Power, Safety/Glory” are excellent tools in your toolbox.
         Any questions?
-Yes, this will be on the Exam!
-THE opportune time… Bad Friday, or “Good” Friday as the Christians call it—what they’ll be celebrating in 40 some odd days, well, there is that.
I suppose, in a sense, this is impolitic to say… but, I’ll say it anyway
—I have tenure after all, right
—The Last Temptation makes this degree you are working on worthless…
Yes, ultimately, all our victories here are shallow ones.
Ultimately, we’ve already lost, we’re training you for a job here, that can not be won.
Jesus continued to hold onto that Identity as Child of God, through everything we could throw at him,
He multiplied bread, for others.
Was crowned the servant king.
Showed forth God’s glory on the cross.

Even Death itself could not hold him.
Not only that, he ripped the hinges off our front gate, he defeated and bound Satan
and he clothed all these Christians in that damn Identity of his, Child of God.
         They are clothed in God’s love, rooted in that identity, so that they can face us, and all of our temptations, not in fear, but instead led by a passion for their Lord.
Class Dismissed.