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Command This Stone

Luke 4:1-13

The Rev. Jon Roberts

21 February

2010

Good Shepherd Episcopal Church

Venice, FL

1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” And he took him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

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The First Temptation "Command that these stones be made bread" William Blake, 1816-1825

"Every moment of resistance to temptation is a step to victory", said one theologian.[1]

The problem is if we're not careful we can trip on the stones. "Why be so careful", one may ask. "The only way to resist temptation is to yield to it," wrote the infamous Oscar Wilde who seemed to enjoy his own falling. Falling can be fun. Afterall, falling isn't really falling. It's seeing the world from the ground up. It's a familiar contest. On one shoulder is the angel and on the other the devil.

Struggling to make ends meet on a first-call salary, the priest was livid when he confronted his wife with the receipt for a $250 dress she had bought. “How could you do this?” he exclaimed. His wife gathered herself together and confessed, “Well, one day I was walking outside this store looking at this dress in the window, and then I found myself trying it on. It was like Satan was whispering in my ear, ‘You look fabulous in that dress. Buy it!’” “Well,” the priest replied, “You know how I deal with that kind of temptation. I say, ‘Get behind me, Satan!’” “I did,” replied his wife, “but then he said, ‘It looks fabulous from back here, too!’”
Walking down our path, there are times when we would rather enjoy the view from behind. Sometimes it's easier to remain here and take the fall. Our life is not always a straight path to joy and peacefulness. It has to wind around a few curves. Drop down or face a bump or two. It can be painful when we stumble or fall, but we have to try to get back up. When one falls, to think about love may be the last thing on the mind. Love is hardly the first thing that comes out of your lips, as you lay there.

John the Evangelist quoted our Lord saying, "This I command you, to love one another." At the recent Diocesan Chrism Mass held in St. Petersburg our Bishop consecrated oils we use for healing and baptism. In doing so he commanded us that we should "Love our people." These two sayings, "Love one another" and "Love your people," shall resonate as we travel the path of a holy Lent.[2] Loving may be hard if we do not love others, or even so ourselves. Nonetheless this is what we are commanded to do. In the minor things. The smallest most insignificant thoughts. We should at all times and in all places, consider the act of loving. To begin we have to love ourselves. With all our blemishes, all our inadequacies, all of our past doings, we have to love ourselves. When we fall we pray for God's forgiveness. He feeds us with His Holy Word and Sacrament. He lends an arm and helps us up. He doesn't lead us to temptation. Every day is a new day with Him.

Secondly we have to love others. With all their blemishes, all their inadequacies, all their past doings, we have to love others. When they fall, they need us to pray for them. We must forgive them if they have hurt us. We are to lend an arm to help them up. We don't lead them into temptation. "Command this stone."[3] This is what Jesus heard. Without food for forty days he was hungry. It sounded like good advice. From the front and from behind, circled by the one who loved him not, Jesus hears smooth talk of one who wants him to yield to the fall. He is being led into temptation. "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread," is such devilish advice.[4]

It's always the easy way out, that is offered. Sign here and leave the rest up to me. You never read the fine print and you pay for it later. But Jesus resisted. How? He remembered the words. "Man cannot live by bread alone...but that man lives by everything that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord."[5] Two more temptations and the same resistance. Whatever it is, you can resist every temptation by arming yourself with the word of God. This is why we recite the Ten Commandments today. To keep the word of God close to our hearts. With this, with prayer and fasting, you will find how to love yourself and how to love others. This is what we are commanded to do and when you learn how to do these things, you will also find victory in your step, the only kind that matters, because you are walking into the loving arms of Jesus Christ.

[1] Frederick William Faber (1814-1863)
[2] John 15:17
[3] Luke 4:1-13
[4] John 4:3
[5] Deuteronomy 8:3

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