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First Sunday of Lent Year A - 2020

1. Several weeks ago,

a. I preached a sermon in which I mentioned that,

i. Save from the window of a plane,

ii. I had never seen a desert.

b. A desert like the one Jesus finds himself in in today’s gospel.

2. But then the other day I called my brother.

a. His voice was different,

b. and almost right away he told me of his friend’s wife.

3. I know his friend.

a. He is from Germany,

b. is a member of my brother’s Lutheran Church

c. and he and his wife have served with my brother in the church for many years.

4. Last year his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.

a. They fought it bravely,

b. And a couple of weeks ago,

i. she went back for her scans and was declared cancer free.

5. That was on a Friday.

a. On the following Monday, their daughter visited,

i. and she found her mother at the sink, unable to speak.

6. They rushed her to the hospital,

a. and that was when they discovered the brain tumor.

b. She is currently undergoing radiation,

i. in a last-ditch attempt to shrink the tumor.

7. It was then that I heard it,

a. in the way my brother’s voice caught as he spoke.

8. I saw it,

a. in the situation his friends found themselves in: The desert.

9. And I realized that you don’t have to take a plane to be there.

10. For the desert can be anywhere:

a. It is that place where we are out of resources,

b. helpless before forces we cannot control

c. That place where, even though we might be surrounded by people,

i. we feel utterly alone.

11. Ever been in the desert?

12. I know I have. And today so is Jesus.

13. IT is an odd place for him to be at this point in the story.

a. He has just come off the first high of his ministry;

i. his baptism by John in the Jordan.

14. Given that at the moment of his baptism,

a. the heavens open,

b. the spirit decends

c. and God proclaims him to be God’s Son,

15. you would expect some sort of celebration!

a. After all baptisms for us are happy family affairs

b. with candles and gifts – and always a party!

16. But not for the first Christians

17. For them baptism meant that they were marked women, marked men

a. because they had become one THEM;

18. Christians were persecuted by their Jewish brothers and sisters as heretics

a. because they worshiped Jesus as God

19. They were arrested by their roman rulers as atheists,

a. because they refused to honor the Gods and Goddesses of the Roman state.

20. After their baptisms Christians lived in the desert –

a. and thus we find Jesus there too.

21. When Mark tells this story,

a. he glosses over the 40 days in the desert,

22. Matthew, however, goes all in

a. Filling out the story with hunger and thirst

b. and a visit by the devil himself.

23. Jesus is without food or water -

a. and the devil tempts him with bread

24. Jesus is helpless

a. and the devil tempts him with power

25. Jesus is alone

a. and the devil tempts him with glory and recognition.

26. Go ahead Jesus, use your power to make bread!

27. Go ahead Jesus jump off the temple and reveal your majesty!

28. Go ahead Jesus, worship me and I will give you glory!

29. The temptations might be different

a. but in each case they all have to do with power

b. The power to change things to make things better.

30. It would have made perfect sense if Jesus gave in

a. for although he was in the desert,

b. in a moment hecould choose the garden

c. And have all the things that any of us would want in this life.

31. And yet again and again Jesus resisted,

a. turning to the Scriptures rather than the tempter's words.

b. turning to God rather than himself.

32. Again and again he rejected the Garden offered by the Devil

33. Again and again he chose the desert,

a. until the tempter finally leaves in frustration.

34. Now we have heard this story every first Sunday in Lent for decades;

35. yet the question still begs to be asked;

a. why would Jesus choose the desert?

b. Why did he choose to go there?

c. Why did he choose to stay there?

d. Why did he, when he knew he had the power

i. to make his life a garden,

e. choose to remain in the desert?

36. Because he knew he was not alone in the desert.

a. he knew there were those of us who lived in deserts

i. of illness and sadness

ii. of depression and anxiety

iii. of oppression and abuse

b. Those deserts cover far more of the earth than any desert of sand and stone,

i. They are found in schools and offices,

ii. homes and businesses,

iii. Whole churches and nations.

c. and the people in them are tempted every day

i. to choose manipulation and violence to end their illness and anger

ii. to choose drugs and alcohol to end their depression and anxiety

iii. to choose terrorism and war to end their oppression and abuse.

iv. to choose the easy way out of the desert,

1. in the hope of finding the garden.

37. It is for all of us in our deserts, whatever they are,

38. that Jesus chooses the desert;

a. not just because he knows he is not alone,

b. but so that we know That we are not,

39. That he is there with us in our deserts, as he was in his own

a. Teaching us to rely on the one who sent him into the desert,

b. So that he might lead us through it

i. Standing up with us to our demons, whatever they are, as he did his own.

ii. revealing to us that just when we think that our lives are a desert,

iii. he is there with us, thus making even the desert a place of life.

40. I don’t know what will happen to my brother’s friend and his wife.

41. I guess none of us do.

a. At this point they are fighting her illness,

i. and praying for healing; and at least for a little more time.

42. But they are not alone;

a. they have each other, their family, their friends-

b. like my brother and so many others - who are with them and supporting them

c. IN the desert

43. It is no mistake that each year, at the start of Lent

44. Our church calls us to remember Jesus' temptations in the desert,

a. For as we focus on our sins and shortcomings,

b. and we intensify our religious exercises and our penances,

c. We can so focus on the desert,

d. that we can forget the one who is there with us in it.

45. And we dare not do that;

a. for to do that would be to miss the reason why he is there,

b. and why we stay with others there;

i. to help one another make even the desert a place of life.

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