Sermon: Harder Than It Looks

wildernessSermon Text: Matthew 4:1-11 Sermon Excerpt Change is a given.  It is also something most of us dislike – perhaps more than we are willing to admit. Who among us wanted the time to change last night?

  • Why did we have to lose an hour of life, especially an hour of sleep?
  • Why does something so small tend to become something we hold on to and complain about for days or even weeks?

Who among us wanted church to shift from ordinary time to Lent?

  • Why did we go from the liturgy we knew and loved to one that includes a time for confession of sin?
  • Why did we need to transition from a season of spirituality that could be a marginal part of life to 40 days of heightened spiritual awareness?

Who among us wants to leave Southwest Florida during season in order to relocate to a much colder climate?

  • Why would we want to voluntarily return to a place we intentionally left behind – at least for the winter months?
  • Why would we trade our tropical island paradise for suburban scenery or to withdrawal into the wilderness?

Whether or not you can answer these questions, this morning you are invited into the wilderness.  This opportunity comes with many warning labels.  It is an invitation into the unknown, which can be downright uncomfortable. For me, the idea of intentionally traveling into the wilderness seems strange at best.  In the early years of ministry I was introduced to something called a “retreat.”  For those of you who may be unfamiliar with such language, retreats are the closest thing to wilderness wandering most modern day city dwellers ever encounter.

Retreats typically begin with a long drive that takes participants from somewhere directly into the middle of nowhere.  You know you have arrived at nowhere when your cell phone stops working, when you see far more insects than people, and when the pace of life suddenly slows dramatically. As you walk winding trails, sit in silence under the stars, and live as simply as possible, you adopt the natural surroundings as your temporary home. Only when the distractions of everyday life fade, do you find yourself ready to embrace the spiritual possibilities of the wilderness. Our journey into the wilderness to find meaning isn’t new.

It predates . . . (read full manuscript).

So What?

The most frequently used terms I have heard employed to categorize the three are lust of the flesh, pride of life, and lust of the eyes.  Another set of labels view the three as temptation to misuse of power in three domains: (1) social or cultural, (2) religious, and (3) political. Using either list, these three broad categories effectively cover just about any temptation you have ever faced or will ever face. While these characterizations are helpful, they are also general enough to be generally ignored.

Alyce McKenzie, professor of preaching at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, recently suggested that, “The greatest temptation is the temptation not to pray.”  This temptation is a temptation to do life our own way and under our own power.  It is a temptation to forgo the Way of Jesus for the way of personal preference.

As you begin your Lenten journey, what is your plan to ensure you don’t fall for the greatest temptation?

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