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Welcome to Sunshine Cathedral, a congregational mission of Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We come together each week to sing and pray, to read the sacred texts of ancient times and those of our day. We celebrate community and strive to live our lives ethically and lovingly in all that we do. Let us gather in community to rest in the love of the one who made us in Her image.
The Call to Worship
(by Walter Royal Jones, Jr.)
Mindful of truth ever exceeding our knowledge and community ever exceeding our practice,
reverently we covenant together, beginning with ourselves as we are, to share the strength of
integrity and the heritage of the spirit in the unending quest for wisdom and love.
Prayer of Confession
Each Sunday during Lent we will replace our opening prayer with a prayer of confession. Please join me in saying this prayer in your own heart either aloud in your real life environment or in your heart. Let us pray:
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.
(from The Book of Common Prayer)
The Wisdom of Tia Walker
“Affirmations are our mental vitamins, providing the supplementary positive thoughts we need to balance the barrage of negative events and thoughts we experience daily.”
Luke 4.4, 8, 13 (Durrell Watkins’ paraphrase)
Jesus was fasting, and was tempted to end his fast early. But then, reflecting on the Torah, Jesus said, ‘It takes more than bread to really live.’
Jesus felt called to challenge oppression and serve the hurting, but he considered that other kinds of work would be much more profitable. Then, again reflecting on the Torah, he reminded himself, ‘I am meant to be faithful to my purpose. I will serve God as wholeheartedly as I can.”
Finally, distracting temptations left him, at least for a while.
Click on the audio bar below to hear the audio.
As I was preparing for our time together today I was struck again by our reading from the Gospel according to Luke in chapter 4 that relates what we have come to know as the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. This reading coming this week right after the scripture on the transfiguration is like a little flashback in a movie. Once again we see Jesus following the pattern of the ancestors.
He has studied the Torah and the writings of the prophets front to back. He goes into the wilderness for forty days and forty nights. This is an image of the Hebrews wandering in the desert for 40 years. The use of the number 40 means “a very long time” in whatever context it is used. Jesus is enacting his wilderness time to follow the pattern established when the Israelites left Egypt. They were free but they had not yet come to understand their calling. They needed the desert time to discern, to learn to trust God, to decide if they could truly give themselves to their new life.
Jesus went into the wilderness to fast and pray. Moses remained 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai. Elijah also fasted and prayed 40 days and 40 nights. Sound familiar? Moses and Elijah and Jesus? Last week when Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration it was a literary device reminding us that Jesus did not live in a vacuum. He honored his ancestors. He studied Torah. His religious tradition meant something to him. It was an important part of who he was.
Jesus continues to follow the pattern by going out into the desert to fast and pray after his baptism. I believe that Jesus, in his humility and yearning to be united to God, went out to the wilderness to open himself to an experience of even closer encounter with God than he had experienced in his baptism. He had felt the power and presence of God to palpably that he had “heard” the voice of God saying, “this is my beloved child in whom I am pleased.” I can only guess that if I had heard God’s voice that clearly even once in my life I would probably spend a great deal of the rest of my life trying to hear it again.
What is so fascinating about Jesus’ encounter to me is that rather than hearing God’s voice there in the wilderness, Jesus is confronted by what is referred to in the scripture as the devil, not the Lord God. According to the Jewish Annotated New Testament page 106, “In Jewish thought “The Satan” i.e., the “Accuser” is a member of the heavenly court; his role is to test the righteous. When Satan taunts Jesus with a reference to Psalm 78 where the Israelites doubt God’s ability to give them bread in the wilderness, Jesus quotes back from Deuteronomy 8.3 recalling the manna that came from heaven to feed them in the wilderness.
When Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and offers him the power over them all if he will only bow down and worship Satan rather then God. But Jesus again quotes the Torah from Deuteronomy 6.5, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” It’s also important to note that it is here where the metaphorical nature of the story is strongest since there is no mountain on earth high enough from which one can view the whole earth. In fact, not even from space in our age can the whole earth be seen from one vantage point.
Finally Satan puts Jesus on the highest pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem and dares Jesus to jump so that the angels will rescue him referring to Psalm 91:11-12, and again Jesus quotes back the Torah from Deuteronomy 6:16. The pinnacle of the temple is an image of attaining the highest regard of the religious leaders, rising to the top protected by angels from any calamity. It’s an image of religious structures of power.
This exchange, back and forth quoting scripture as if to justify breaking the fast, rising to fame, glory, and power in the world and expecting God to rescue us when we find ourselves in dire straits after leaping off the very pinnacle of the Temple, the symbol of the seat of God’s presence in the Jewish traditions of the day, reminds me of how I sometimes wrestle with myself.
There are times when I can’t decide which ethic is the best ethic to follow. Don’t I deserve good things? Why should I have to take this journey of Lent yet again? After all I do it year after year after year. I do it because it teaches me about who I am at my very core. It deepens my sense of knowing that God loves me. This journey each year reminds me that life is a series of lessons from which I can learn and grow or resist and avoid.
Even the most basic prayer in the Christian tradition, the one we know as the Lord’s Prayer petitions God… “lead us not into temptation.” It’s difficult to know which voice is the voice of God and which is my own ego and self-serving. Life, at least for me, is not a series of very neat, well delineated, black and white, this or that, good or evil decisions. There is a lot of grey in my life. Which angel I’m I hearing at any given moment? Which angel will I listen to?
The question for us all this week is how will we spend this time of preparation and reflection. What things will we do to enhance our spiritual practice? Sunshine Cathedral’s Senior Pastor Rev Dr Durrell Watkins put it best I think in his invitation to join Sunshine Cathedral for Ash Wednesday services. He said, “This isn't a time to be overly somber; Lent is a time to drink more deeply from our spiritual wells, and that is bound to lead us to a greater awareness of divine Light in our lives. And as we embrace the possibilities of Lent, our Easter experience will be more profound as well.”
We cannot fully appreciate Easter morning unless we fully experience Good Friday. So it is our spiritual work for the next 46 days to “drink deeply” rather than depriving ourselves of the blessing that awaits us. It’s lovely really that our first Sunday in Lent is St. Valentine’s Day in the US… a day when we celebrate love and commitment. Let us show our love and commitment to ourselves, to each other, and to God by keeping a holy Lent.
Temptation will come our way all throughout out lives… temptation to feed our own egos, temptation to live selfishly or greedily, and yes… temptation to diminish our own worth and put everyone’s feelings and needs above our own. Keeping a holy Lent means finding a balance between coming to terms with things we need to work on and things we need to value about ourselves and others.
As we travel together, we can lean on each other and learn the lessons we need from this year’s journey. Today is our first step along the way. Amen
Suggested Music: Download SL20160214