Reflection + Sermon: 1st Sunday of Lent

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness

Saturday’s reflection was about us admitting to, and owning,
The potentially destructive part of our human nature.
We are reminded very early on in Lent that Jesus was not immune to this.
The first Sunday of Lent is about Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness.
He was tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread;
to seek power and control; to impress people with great feats.
Like us he had to come to terms with potentially destructive forces,
and desires that threatened to overwhelm him.
So as we face these elements within ourselves we can rest assured
that we are not alone and we find our strength in one
who took upon him our nature in all its beauty and in all its difficulty.
Jesus had to confront his inner demons just as we do.
It is in him we find the strength to discover who God has called us to be.

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Sermon for Lent 1

Since last Advent Sunday the Catholic Church in France
began using a new version of the Lord’s Prayer.
With the Pope’s permission they have changed one line in the prayer;
instead of praying: Lead us not into temptation,
they now pray: Do not let us enter temptation.

The reason this change has been made is to get around a theological problem,
of whether or not God can lead us into temptation;
whether God can tempt us to sin.
Personally I have never had a problem with this line in the Lord’s Prayer,
but apparently for some it is a big issue.
There is a big push for more churches to follow the French lead and use the new version.

So do they have point?
Is there a problem with the idea of God leading us into temptation?
Does God really tempt us to sin?

Now some argue that it does not really mean that at all,
and it is merely a prayer to God to help us and strengthen us when we are tempted.
So it is just a matter of translation or interpretation.
In which case, many would say, it does not need changing.
But others would argue, if that is the case, we may as well join the French and say:
Do not let us enter temptation and save the confusion.

But for me, the simple truth is, God does actually lead us into temptation,
and the original version works very nicely thank you very much!
Going right back to the story of Genesis in the Garden of Eden,
God is leading poor Adam and Eve into temptation, isn’t he?

They are getting along very nicely in paradise until God comes along and says:
You see that tree over there? Well that tree is a bit different to all the rest….
that there tree is the tree of knowledge and it is a no go area,
so stay well away and do not under any circumstances eat its fruit.
If you do there will be consequences.

Now, correct me if I am wrong
but if you don’t want someone to eat from a particular tree,
would it not be best to not draw attention to it in the first place?
And anyway, if you do not want your creation eating from the tree,
then why put it there?   If that is not God leading us into temptation, what is?

And then we have todays Gospel reading where we are told that
Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan.
In other words, God set him up.
No wonder Jesus taught his disciples to pray: Lead us not into Temptation,
he knew what it was like.

Of course God leads us into temptation.
It is how we grow, how we learn, how we develop.
Without temptation we would be mere robots or automatons, not fully human at all.
So I really do not see the problem with God leading us into temptation,
for without it I would not be who I am.

If we are to truly live we have to have temptation in life.
If God gives us a gift, it automatically carries with it the temptation to misuse it.
Doesn’t it?   How could it be different?

Sex, wine, food, abundance, ambition, passion and the like,
these are all wonderful gifts given us by our creator.
But with each comes the temptation to misuse it;
it is the nature of the gift, it is the nature of life.
without the temptation there would be no gift;
and life, frankly, would be very limited – it would also be very dull!

Not only would life be dull, but we would never grow as human beings,
we would never develop, we would never learn, we would never thrive.
Of course God leads us into temptation,
it is the process of life, the process of creation.

So, if temptation is such a necessary part of the gifts that God gives,
why in the Lord’s Prayer do we ask God not to lead us into temptation?
Well, maybe it is because we are human,
and given the choice would always go for the easy option.

But I would think that the more likely interpretation is
that we are asking God to help us and strengthen us for the temptations in life;
asking God for the wisdom to be sensible and disciplined with the gifts that God gives.
Either way it seems a very reasonable prayer to me. Jesus obviously thought so.

Personally, I simply wish that people would stop messing with the Lord’s Prayer;
because I happen to love it just the way it is.