- About Us
- Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 15, 2013
- Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, July 21, 2013
- 4th Sunday after Pentecost – June 16, 2013
- Trinity Sunday – May 26, 2013
- Pentecost – May 19, 2013
- The 5th Sunday of Easter – April 28, 2013
- Third Sunday of Easter – April 14, 2013
- Easter Sunday – April 8, 2013
- Palm Sunday – March 24, 2013
- Fourth Sunday of Lent – March 10, 2013
- Third Sunday of Lent – March 3, 2013
- The Baptism of our Lord – January 13, 2013
- Third Sunday of Advent – December 16, 2012
- Sermon on 9/11 – September 11, 2011
- The Syrophoenician Woman – 9-9-12
- Eighth Sunday after Pentecost – July 22, 2012
- Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – July 1, 2012
- Many Paths – May 6, 2012
- An Unexplained Absence – April 15, 2012
- Easter Sunday – April 8, 2012
- Easter Vigil – April 7, 2012
- First Sunday of Lent, 2012 – February 26, 2012
- The Transfiguration – February 19, 2012
- The Calling of Nathanael – January 15, 2012
- Feast of the Holy Innocents – January 1, 2012
- 22nd Sunday after Pentecost – October 16, 2011
- Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost – September 4, 2011
- God has a sense of humor – August 21, 2011
- Liturgy of Thanksgiving – July 31, 2011
- Palm Sunday, 2011 – April 17, 2011
- Lazarus – April 10, 2011
- Christmas 2010 – December 25, 2010
- Third Sunday of Advent – December 12, 2010
First Sunday of Lent, 2012 – February 26, 2012
The First Sunday of Lent
February 26, 2012
Rev. Cameron Ayers
Have you ever been on a diet? How about tried to quit smoking? Maybe you made a resolution to jog or go for a walk every day. Or even think about the different things you have given up for Lent over the years. I remember several years ago when I first did the Atkins diet, after several days of not eating bread or anything that was made with flour or sugar (in other words, the food that’s really delicious), I just couldn’t resist some good sour dough bread.
Temptation: a pretty common human experience. Each of us could tell stories about when we have been tempted by various things from food to other more serious items. Jesus faced three basic kinds of temptation though Mark does not go into the detail that Matthew and Luke do. I would classify them as the temptation to comfort, the temptation to honor or fame, and the temptation to power. The interesting point is that most human urges can be categorized under one of these three headings. There is nothing wrong with temptations per se; it is quite an ordinary human experience to feel drawn to something. You may love strawberries; perhaps you enjoy going to the track or a casino. The problem is when one of these things or areas becomes an idol.
All sin is, at root, idolatry. Let me say it again. Sin is basically nothing more than or less than idolatry. Lent is a time when we are challenged to cast down our idols, to turn away from those false gods that have enslaved us. In today’s gospel, Jesus rejects three kinds of idols. He shows us how to overcome the power of idolatry in our own lives. Remember, the most dangerous idols are always the least obvious. Most of us won’t have to give up praying to a statue of a false god. But how many of us have never gotten rid of the image of God as Santa Claus or as the God of vengeance who is waiting to hurl a lightning bolt right through us if we make one false move?
The first idol Jesus casts down is comfort. He is hungry and refuses to turn the rock into a loaf of bread. Comfort is a tough temptation. Our consumer culture teaches us from childhood that we are entitled to all that we need to be comfortable. The desert stands as a sign of contradiction to that propaganda. Why do we fast, or give up something or not eat meat during Lent? Is it not to remind us that ultimately there are things which merit sacrificing our comfort? Family life often stands as a good witness against the idol of comfort. We must give up certain things we may want in order for everyone in the family or the community to have something they need.
Jesus then proceeds to refuse to throw himself off the Temple, he casts down the idol of reputation, of fame and pride. We all want some version of this temptation. Maybe we want everyone to love us. Perhaps your desire is to be famous, or to have all people in the neighborhood think your house is very clean. When I think of this particular temptation, I remember how difficult it was for me to leave the Jesuits and the nice niche I had in the Catholic Church. I was worried about my reputation, what would people think of me.
Finally: power! If there is one idol that is easy to understand, this is it. Jesus is on a high mountain and is shown all the kingdoms of the world. He breaks this idol once and for all. Power, authority, being in charge, having our own way: all of these are ways of describing this idol. Where do you feel this pull in your own life? Jesus answers this temptation by quoting scripture: You shall love the Lord your God…Him alone shall you adore. This idol really is about our human pride, our temptation to think we are running things. But guess what? We’re not in the driver’s seat, God is. How much better for us to just move over and let the Lord drive, rather than pretending that we are the captain of the universe. The poems Invictus and Dorothy Day’s parody of it “I am the Master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”
Our Lenten practices should all aim at helping us to overcome the temptations, the idols that prevent us from enjoying a full and healthy relationship with God. So, here’s the really hard question today: what are your idols? What are your false gods? What have you set up in the place that God should have in your heart? This is a more subtle question than it may seem. It’s much easier to identify and reject the obvious worship of a statue than it is to realize that I have started spending too much time watching television, or playing video games, or ? (shrug) Spending money on luxury items is not wrong in itself…but it can become an idol as well. In order to answer this question for myself, I know that I need to spend more time in quiet reflection and personal prayer. And that brings us to the very core of Lent: the call to go into the desert. The desert is the place where God speaks to the heart. It can be a quiet part of your room, a walk in Golden Gate Park. To recognize and cast down our idols, each of us is invited to take seriously the call to go into the desert. If we do that, if we wrestle with our personal demons, we can be guaranteed of celebrating the Easter feast with great joy and spiritual re-birth. And, I’ll tell you a secret: We might even become holy in the process!