Ordinary Lives Can Be Holy

Luke 4:1-13

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Once upon a time, a Presbyterian named John moved into a neighborhood where everyone was Catholic and ate only fish on the Fridays during Lent. On the first Friday, John was outside grilling a big juicy steak. Meanwhile all of his neighbors were eating cold tuna salad for supper. This went on each Friday during Lent.

On the last Friday of Lent, some neighbors got together and decided that something just HAD to be done about John. He was tempting them to eat meat every Friday as the aroma filled the neighborhood, and they just couldn’t take it anymore. They decided the best solution was to convert him to be Catholic. They went over and talked with him and were so happy that he agreed to convert.

They took him to church and the priest sprinkled some water over him and told him “You were born a Presbyterian, you were raised a Presbyterian and now you are a Catholic.” The neighbors were SO relieved now that their biggest Lenten temptation was resolved.

The next year, Lent rolled around. On the first Friday, just as the neighborhood was setting down to their fish dinners, the wonderful aroma of steak cooking on a grill came wafting through. They could not believe their noses! What was going on??? They called each other up and decided to meet over in John’s yard to see if he had forgotten it was a Friday in Lent.

The group arrived just in time to see John standing over his grill with a small pitcher of water. He was sprinkling droplets over his steak on the grill and saying, “You were born a cow, you were raised a cow, and now you are a fish.”[1]

Food is a big temptation. It smells so good!  It makes me wonder whether the devil might have been wafting the aroma of freshly baked bread under Jesus’ nose. “Mmmm mmmm mmmm, doesn’t that smell so good! Dude, you could turn those stones into bread.”

Today’s scripture reading about Jesus in the wilderness for 40 days is always the appointed Gospel reading for today, the first Sunday of Lent.  It’s supposed to prepare us for our own season of Lent, and help us to have courage for whatever we have planned for the next 40 days, knowing that even Jesus who was perfect struggled with temptation. We will not be perfect, and we need to give ourselves the same grace that Jesus gives us, so that what Jesus says in Matthew 11:30 will be true:

My yoke is easy and my burden is light.

There are so many different ways to think about what’s happening in today’s passage. I particularly like Bishop Will Willimon’s suggestion that these particular temptations are unique to Jesus because of who he is and what he can do. Jesus is God in the flesh and has the power change stones into bread. Jesus is the king of the world and doesn’t even need the devil to give him that authority.

[2]

The devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and says, “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them all,” (Luke 4:6) offering to make Jesus the king of the world, but receiving that from the devil would be a temporary gift, and really only be an illusion.  God is already the one with all power and authority.

The temptation is to be the sort of Messiah that people expected and that they thought they wanted, full of power and glory and miracles.  But Jesus says, “No.” “Satan departs and Jesus goes his way not as the God we thought we had to have but rather as the Savior he is. [3] 

The temptations we face will be different. If we are fasting from food, then food will be a temptation. If we are trying out a new practice, skipping it will be a temptation. If we are making a plan to do something different during Lent, it’s helpful to remember that the point of whatever we do is not to be keeping up with whatever someone else is doing, but to be making space in our lives, in our hearts and minds, for God, for God’s love and peace, for joy. 

In the devotional book Good Enough: 40-ish Devotionals for a Life of Imperfection, the authors Kate Bowler and Jessica Ritchie suggest that we make space for God through a regula, a fancy word that means “a rule of life.”[4]  The word “rule” sounds oppressive, but it doesn’t need to be oppressive. Actually it’s better if it’s NOT oppressive. It’s more about making space for God through patterns. We probably already have patterns.  Gathering for worship once a week. Spending time each day alone with God.

What are some other patterns that make space for God to work?

In today’s Gospel story, Jesus has made space by going into the wilderness for 40 days, getting away from the distractions of everyday life.

I was thinking this week about whether I might fast from something during Lent, thinking about what might be getting in the way of God for me. Years ago, when our kids were younger, we fasted from screens for Lent. 40 days with no TV. The kids made cute signs to tape on the TV screens to remind us not to turn them on.  We had fun spending our evenings playing games instead of watching TV. I think we all have mostly good memories of that time.

I thought about whether I might do something like that now, but navigating a screen fast now would be tricky, since so much of what I read is digital, and most of our communication is digital.  I was surprised to find in the preface to the anniversary edition of the book Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster a different approach.  Just thirty minutes without screens.  And not for 40 days, just for three days.  Here’s what he says:

“For thirty minutes, turn off all technology . . . Make a good strong cup of coffee or tea. Find a good place to sit. Begin by speaking aloud these words of the Psalmist: ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!’ (139:23–24). Then, be still. No writing. No talking. Nothing. The objective here is to clear away all ‘creaturely activity,’ to use a phrase from the old writers.”[5]

In other words, just be.

I suppose if Jesus could do this for 40 days, I can do it for 40 minutes. 

But yesterday, 40 minutes was too much, so I decided to try 10 minutes. I don’t think the number of minutes matters as much as the effort to spend time with God.  After all, 2 Peter 3:8 says that for God a day is like a thousand years, so I did the math and even one second would be four days.[6]  Sometimes one second can FEEL like four days. But I digress.

The point is to spend even a small amount of time where we aren’t seeking after anything except to enjoy the presence of God.

Romans 14:17 says that God’s kingdom is about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Righteousness, peace, and joy.  The hardest part of that for me is joy. What is hardest for you?

Instead of striving to be good enough, accept that you are good enough, because God loves you and made you just the way you are. Experiencing God’s presence transforms us.

Be present in the moment, nurturing and enjoying God in that time and place.

What are you noticing in this moment?  What can we be thankful to God for in this moment?


[1] https://upjoke.com/temptation-jokes

[2] Photo by Jose Llamas on Unsplash

[3] Will Willimon, Upper Room. The Upper Room Disciplines 2022: A Book of Daily Devotions (p. 118). Upper Room Books. Kindle Edition.

[4] Bowler, Kate; Richie, Jessica. Good Enough (p. 3). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[5] Foster, Richard J.. Celebration of Discipline, Special Anniversary Edition (p. xi). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

[6] https://www.quora.com/If-one-day-is-like-a-thousand-years-then-how-long-is-one-second

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