On Tuesday morning the pastors of Lutheran Saints in Ministry gather in Fairborn Ohio to discuss the texts for Sunday.

These are the contributions that are brought to the table.

Friday, March 3, 2017

You are God? Well , let me tell you . .

The Reflection from 3 years ago was called Standards and you can access it by clicking its title. 
The following is my contemporary reflection:

At the heart of all temptations, as we see here, is the act of pushing God aside because we perceive him as secondary, if not actually superfluous and annoying, in comparison with all the apparently far more urgent matters that fill our lives. — Ratzinger, Joseph (2007-05-15). Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (p. 28). The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

“Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Let us pause there for a moment. Jesus was not a stranger on the bus trying to find his way home (Joan Osborn) and wandering aimlessly into the wild. He was sent there by the force behind everything that is good. The good, the Holy Spirt led him there in order to meet the worst spirit of all. In a way, we see here a summary of all the Gospel. Jesus entered the world to do battle with sin, satan, and death and he emerged victorious. God sent him on purpose to save and redeem. It was God’s will that Jesus be in the world and it is God’s will that Jesus is in the desert. In the desert and in the entirety of the Gospel story that purpose and will is being challenged. Are you here to serve the interests of the flesh, the world and the evil one or the will of God. That will not end until the taunt of the pharisees and the thief on the cross. (Mt 27:40) 
“Make this stone bread.” He will in good time feed the multitudes by miracle. There will be the miracle of the feeding of 5,000. There will be the Holy Eucharist. Yet, they have a different “order” to them. Alfred Delp, martyr, is reported as having written: “Bread is important, freedom is more important, but most important of all is unbroken fidelity and faithful adoration.” (quoted from Ratzinger) To use this insight: Things flow from the will of God down. Do we not pray: “Thy will  be done?” It is the will of God to feed those who have drawn close to Jesus in the desolate place and in baptism. Yet, when they seek Jesus just for bread, they are rebuked. (Jn 6) 
The temptation itself is introduced by an ominous phrase: “Since you are the Son of God,” and it is answered that we live “by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” In other words, the action of supplying  bread in the desert needs to flow from the need of the word of God, not from the ability to do so. The bread on the altar is there not as a miracle of a weird capacity to be in many places at once in the form of bread and wine, but as a healing power to those who have come to find forgiveness of their sins according to the word of God. We might note that in both these cases, fidelity, faith in God, the purpose and will of God, and the application of that will to the people, leads the action. Manna is given in the desert because God means to keep Israel alive, not to do a cool trick with the morning dew. 
The second temptation begins with the same address as the first: “Since you are the Son of God.” In a strange way, both of these temptations are introduced with a phrase and thought all of us are really familiar with. Theodicy. If Jesus is God then shouldn’t he be able to do cool stuff? If God is all so powerful, why don’t God feed everyone? Huh? If God is all powerful and mighty, why is there still war and suffering? If God is always present, why don't he show himself? 
As in the first temptation, Jesus does “jump into the unknown,” so to speak. Is not the cross an act of embracing death in trust that God might indeed save? Yes, the cross seems to have been the test of ultimate test of faith. The cry of desolation suggests so. 
Gregory of Nicaea mused that the devil overlooked the next line in Psalm 91: “You shall trample the serpent.” The jump might make good theodicy, but the Cross is salvation for sinners and the end of the power of hell. Perhaps the entire exercise of Theodicy is a lost cause. Those outside of Faith will not ever be satisfied as the pharisees certainly aren’t and those in the grasp of Faith do not ask the question — only they do because they are “little-faiths” as Jesus sometimes, maybe jokingly, calls his own disciples. (Powell)
We might note that the introduction “since you are the Son of God,” is missing in the final temptation.The first two temptations are akin to a child saying to her father: “If you love me . . “ This temptation really is more of a choice: power or God’s way. Which messiah will you be? It is no accident that Pilate offers the crowd the same choice: Do you want “a Messiah who leads an armed struggle, promises freedom and a kingdom of [your] own, or this mysterious Jesus who proclaims that losing oneself is the way to life?” (Ratzinger) The end of the Gospel has a reply to the spirit behind this question. All power in heaven and on earth is given to the risen Jesus. (28:18) It is like the bread: If you come for the bread you miss the point. (Jn 6:27) It is like the jump: If you come to see a great and magic feat, you will go away and die disillusioned. (Mt 27:5) The real miracle, maybe the only miracle worth talking about, the Resurrection, is pretty much unobserved. The guards at the tomb come close, maybe. But by the time the angel strikes them near dead with fear, Jesus is already risen according to the angel’s announcement. (28:4-7)
“What have you done for me lately,” asked an 1980s pop song. The temptations put before us the choice about who gets to ask this question. Do we get to ask it of God or is it God’s prerogative to ask it of us? The temptations in the wilderness asks this question of us. Do we set God’s agenda or does God have our ear in all things? When you pray “your will be done,” do you mean it? Whatever befall you, do you believe yet that God is for you and not against you? What do you blame God for? What will you not accept from the hand of God? What do you have to see to believe and have Faith? Will any of that be enough and can there ever be enough for you to believe? 

A last thought. The tempter showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in their splendor. Ask yourself today: “Are any of those kingdoms still around?” 

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