Both the Gospel and our sending hymn - Bless Now, O God, the Journey intrigue me. For my sermon, I’d like the two to have a conversation.
Bless now, O God the journey that all your people make, the path through noise and silence, the way of give and take. The trail is found in desert and winds the mountain round, then leads beside still waters, the road where faith is found.
The lyrics to this hymn rate highly in my books. It’s on the road, in the midst of the journey where faith is found. Perhaps faith, God’s gift is already present within and around. In the journey this faith is exercised. Discovered in the noise and silence. Received in the give and take.
This mornings Gospel narrative places us in the midst of the journey Jesus makes.
Led by the spirit into the wilderness to face the tempters relentless tug. Jesus digs deep and resolves to walk the path where faith is found. In so doing, we are given a very real way to navigate the challenges of life. Jesus came to earth, and walked as humanity does through the desert, on the winding mountain road, and beside the still waters of the soul.
For Jesus, the relentless tempter asks him to consider on what side will he stand as he navigates the wilderness pathways of life. How will he walk the winding road around tempters obstacles, pacifiers and traps. During the 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus helps us to ‘differentiate’ from what is not life giving and grasp onto that which gives life.
Along the road, Jesus is given three tests.
The first test has to do with hunger and what satiates our hunger.
The second test has to do with our identity and from where it comes.
The third test has to do with the use of power.
I’d like to delve a little more into the third temptation Jesus faces. The tempter offers Jesus all of the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. “All of these I will give you, if you fall down and worship me. Jesus says, away with you Satan. For it is written, Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”
What does this mean for our daily living?
This third test has to do with the use power. The tempter offers Jesus power and control over all. When we feel helpless, power is what we seek. What would happen if Jesus used the power as offered by the devil? Wouldn’t Jesus be able to harness the power over all the kingdoms for good? God is god but in this scenario we face the truly human nature of God. Jesus too is on a journey.
Jesus doesn’t bite at the power the tempter offers. He doesn’t claim this of type power as his own. The ministry to come, as we know is one marked by power found in weakness, the foolishness of the cross, a power that brings life out of death. What we see throughout the ministry of Jesus is that the power he claims is used on behalf of others - to feed the hungry and to heal the sick, to break the bonds of oppression and to free the prisoners all the while, giving glory to God.
The power Jesus embraces is be less about control and more about trust even in the midst of that which terrifies us.
What we are reminded is that God, in and through Jesus, knows what it is like to suffer. Jesus doesn’t intend for us to suffer in the same way but reminds us of God’s companionship when life hits a rough patch.
Jesus shows how to navigate the winding way even when terrors are present. Imagine a faith in which hope burns through our terrors, a faith in which God’s love sustains the day.
The Lenten melody sings to us again….
Bless sojourners and pilgrims who share this winding way, your hope burns though the terrors, your love sustains the day. The yearn for holy freedom while often we are bound. Together we are seeking, the road where faith is found.
We’re in this together.
Throughout history, there has been a yearning for holy freedom for those bound. It’s probably fair to say that some people have been encouraged more than others to take a backseat, to remain silent, and that they are of less value. This is also an issue of power and privilege. One that Jesus rejects. When this power is left unchecked, the most vulnerable in our midst suffer.
Jesus does not claim the type power the tempter offers but he does not give up power. While marginalized, minorities or women might been inclined or taught to read and interpret this passage as the giving up of power to be a mark of faithful service, this can be and is problematic.
For some people, the action called forth from this passage is to claim the God given power given to them. TO - Use your voice. Use your hands. Use your life.
At times, it’s important to check our theology and language as well. Thompson, a feminist theologian suggest that a healthy theology of the cross offers adequate resources to resist those structures and perpetrators of violence that inflict unbearable pain. There is no room for this….
Power and privilege go hand in hand. While some have power handed to them based on gender, skin colour, SES, age or sexual orientation. Others do not. And because of this they are more vulnerable.
It is shocking and heartbreaking that in Ontario, Human trafficking which effects 90 percent girls and women has the highest police reported rate in Canada. Femicide is still rampant in the world. This is why the ELCIC has been marking Thursdays in Black - in hopes of a world without violence against women.
As a church, we are invited to rejected the power the tempter offers and exercise healthy power. Part of this task is naming the power and privilege and how it plays out in unhealthy ways.
It has been said that,
"What my community could not name it could not see. And what the community could not see, I could not integrate.”
God is God, and we certainly are not God. Before the God of life, we humbly stand. However, God does equip us with power to enact change in the world and our own lives. God doesn’t try to take away our power. In fact, we are each given a healthy amount of power and autonomy to contribute to goodness within our lives and communities.
Your voice, your hands, you life. Let all of these speak to the God of love who works through you, empowering you to be the justice in the world, the love in hardened hearts, the courage in the face of fear, the calm in the midst of the storm, the hope that burns through terror, the love that sustains the day.
Met on the journey. On the road from here to there. Confined not to places or spaces. God is all around. It’s on the road and in the journey where a promise is made, a covenant given.
It’s on the road,
as faith is found.
Divine eternal lover, you meet us on the road. We wait for lands of promise where milk and honey flow. But waiting not for places, you meet us all around. Our covenant is written on roads, as faith is found.
Sources of Inspiration:
Thompson, Deanna. Crossing the Divide. Luther, Feminism and the Cross.
Dunstan, Sylvia. Bless Now, O God, the Journey (hymn)