[Today our church leaders and the congregation were commissioned for the year ahead]
Today, we heard a story – during our young person’s time – about the temptation to do nothing or it is safer to do what we always do, it creates less anxiety, it does not put us out.
Recently, with Thea, I watched a movie with Jimmy Stewart called ‘Firecreek’. Jimmy is one of my favourite actors. In this western, like most, there is a tussle between good and evil, the part-time sheriff – full time parent, friend, farmer and community man – realises that too often in his life he has played it safe – and not faced the tough things, let alone expected it of anyone in his community.
Here now is one of those critical scenes in which the main character finally realises he has settled for less and he and his family and his community have paid the price for that.
In our Bible reading from Luke this morning, Jesus is about to begin his ministry and is faced with a challenge. In fact he was faced with three challenges or temptations.
The first is to break his fast prematurely, the second is to serve Satan instead of God, and the third is to use God’s scriptures for one’s own edification rather than honouring God.
There are great parallels in this scripture with what we, as Christians, are called to do, especially in Lent.
We are called:
- To fast more [not gratifying our senses]
- To pray more [to change our habits and slow down] and finally
- To serve God in serving and helping others.
However, like an unreformed part-time Sheriff, or a pigeon who won’t take a bath, we have learned to settle for less and we do so.
We demand instant gratification.
We accept the failure of our grand dreams and calling and, too often, we take the easy route.
Like our world, we have fallen prey to the disease of the now.
We expect answers from our leaders, instant fixes from our politicians, forgiveness without repentance, healing and growing without commitment and meaning without faith.
Can we ever hope to create a time and space for our planet to heal, when our immediate needs take precedence over the rainforest, climate change, social justice and eliminating poverty?
How do we understand eternity if we are always fixed in action and spirit on the here and now.
Recently I read someone’s sermon on the Beatitudes. In the sermon Jesus addresses a similar issue. In essence, he says that the reign of God is something so different from the systems of the world – but particularly the Western world.
Jesus challenges the hypocrites [Luke 6:42]. Hypocrites, from the Greek – literally means play actors – those who have become addicted on the immediate reward of applause and admiration, and have rejected the hidden eternal values of real prayer, true fasting and self-less giving – they have settled for too little, a cut price discounted faith.
Today, we have commissioned you all – to be future looking, big-picture, journeying disciples – who don’t take the easy route and who don’t settle for less.
That’s the call of Jesus – from the desert lands in the fourth chapter of Luke’s gospel.