First Sunday in Lent Sermon: Communion Meditation

Third, St. Matthew makes us consider the names of the devil. In this text Satan is identified by three different names: the tempter, Satan, and the devil. “The tempter” is the most important of these names, for it is his Satan’s most important job title. Unlike God, Satan has no real power. He cannot make us do bad things, he can only tempt us to do bad things. We do the rest. This does not mean that Satan is weak or harmless. St. Paul says that Satan disguises himself as “an angel of light.” We are attracted to things that we think are bright and shiny: wealth, power, fame, success, elicit sex. In the beginning all these things sparkle like light; but the sparkle wears off nothing remains but ugliness and shame. St. Peter says the devil prowls about like a raging lion seeking those whom he may devour. Every time we give in to temptation, it takes a bite out of our happiness, our health, our life.

All the texts before us this morning remind us that the force we call sin, death, and the devil can be beaten. Jesus beat all the forces of evil from the beginning. The scripture says that Jesus was tempted in all points like we are, yet he was without sin.Jesus is the Archetype and example of what God wants from us and for us. Jesus lived so close to God that nothing he did put him in conflict with God, with his neighbor, or with himself. If Jesus had received what he deserved in this world, he would have lived a long, rich, full life, and he would never have known the fear of death. Satan tempted Jesus, but he did not torture of kill him. It was human sin that caused his suffering and his death.

Now here is the good news.  St. Paul says that as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. 

You and I are sinners by birth and by choice. We know that when we reach down inside ourselves we always dredge up that which is unworthy to be spoken off. However, if we are to achieve true forgiveness we must speak. In Psalm 32, the psalmist wrote:

When I declared not my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to thee, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”; then thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin. 

Or, as the author of 1st John has written:  “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Unlike Jesus, you and I are not perfect.  However, because of Jesus, we can be forgiven.

In my study I have a book given me by Bishop Herbert Spaugh.  It was written by Leslie Weatherhead, the famous 20th century British Methodist. It is entitled, “Religion, Psychology and Healing.”  One day, I was reading it in it just before I went to the hospital to visit a member. I encountered a powerful sentence. Weatherhead wrote, “Forgiveness is the most therapeutic idea in the world.!” I put down the book, and went to the hospital; but that sentence had burned its way into my brain. As I got on an elevator, I met a doctor who I knew to be a psychiatrists.  I said, “Doctor, I just read that, ’Forgiveness is the most therapeutic idea in the world.’  What would you say to that?”  That doctor lit-up like a light-bulb.  He became excited and animated. He said, “Yes, yes, that’s it  ‘Forgiveness is the most therapeutic idea in the world’; but you just try and get one of my patients to forgive themselves.”  The elevator stopped and the the psychiatrists got off.  Had he ridden the elevator  with me just one more floor, I would have said,”Oh, I would never do that. I would never ask them to forgive themselves. I would tell them how therapeutic it can be make our confession to God, and receive God’s forgiveness.”


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