It’s an old tradition still observed in many Episcopal churches: on the First Sunday of Lent we begin worship with The Great Litany. It’s long, and the language is archaic. We don’t speak that way anymore. But The Great Litany is powerful. The Great Litany gets down to basics: evil, sin, heresy, schism, natural disasters, violence, death, even childbirth.
When we prayed The Great Litany this morning, we asked God to deliver us “from the crafts and assaults of the devil”. Then, several minutes later, in this morning’s gospel, we observed those crafts and assaults in action. We saw Jesus tempted in the wilderness. We saw Jesus withstand the devil’s crafts and assaults. We heard Jesus say no.
The temptation of Christ is often seen as a one-time event. Jesus defeated Satan out there in the wilderness, and that was that. Enough said, right?
Well, no, it wasn’t that way. Simon Peter tempted Jesus, remember? In his sincere but imperfect love for Jesus he urged Jesus to reject the cross. Jesus’ response was, “Get behind me Satan.” And Jesus’ final testing came at Gethsemane on the night before he suffered.
Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet did not sin. That means Jesus was tempted every day just as we are. He was tempted to be less than the person he truly was. He was tempted to be less than the Son of God.
Every day you and I are tempted to be less than children of God. We are tempted to forsake our identity as baptized Christians. We are tempted to forget who we are and whose we are. We are baptized daughters and sons of God.
Speaking of baptism, on Ash Wednesday we took a look at the vows we renew whenever we revisit our baptismal covenant. There are five. All five are in question and answer form.
The second one goes like this: Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
And the question for you this morning is simply this: will you?
Will you do your best to persevere in resisting evil? Will you do your best to remember who you are and whose you are and hold on to that?
That’s what Jesus did at his temptation.
And when you fail, as we all do, will you admit it? Will you no longer make excuses for yourself? Will you repent and return to the Lord?
The Lord is waiting for your return. As the loving father waited patiently for the prodigal son’s return, so God waits for you. Will you repent and return to God? God awaits your return.
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