February 24, 2013: Lent: Grounded

Posted on : Feb 21st, 2013 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

“Grounded!”

That very word always takes me back to my adolescence.  In those days, being “grounded” was not a good thing.  It was punishment.  Fortunately, I didn’t get “grounded” as often as my older brother.  He loved to push boundaries as far as he could, and often beyond what he could get away with.  One of the benefits of not being the oldest sibling is that you learn by example, or at least you get a preview of what not to do!   It wasn’t until many years later that I learned that being “grounded” isn’t a bad thing; it’s a good thing.  Being grounded is “knowing who you are.”

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus has a delayed adolescence experience.  He has to figure out “who he is.”  This story of Jesus going into the wilderness (into solitude), fasting (an ancient biblical tradition in which one ate and drank only minimally so one could devote oneself to prayer and reflection), and being tempted by evil (figuratively described as “the devil”) immediately follows his Baptism, which according to the biblical tradition happens to Jesus when he is about 30.  You may recall that at the time of Jesus’ baptism in the river Jordan, by John the Baptist (or Baptizer) after John baptizes Jesus, Jesus is blessed with peace (the Holy Spirit descends on him) and he hears this word from God:  “You are my beloved child.  In you (or with you) I am delighted (overflowing with loving pride).”  After having that kind of intense experience with God, Jesus goes into the wilderness to figure out who he is, what just happened to him and what that means for his life.  Thus, the 40 days of fasting, praying, and working through the “negative stuff” of life (temptations).

Every child, adolescent and adult has these same “temptation experiences.”  We all want to cross the boundaries and enter into the places that are not good or healthy for us.  Many of us take it to the extreme and end up hurting ourselves by doing self-destructive things.  That’s what all those ethical challenges are about that Jesus wrestles with as he encounters the presence of evil in his life and in our world.  How many times have you heard those voices saying to you, “If you are…” or even worse, “If you really are…. prove it to me; do what you know is wrong; be self-destructive?”  Yeah.  Right.

The wonderful thing Jesus discovers and offers to us is that we don’t have to prove anything about ourselves to God.  Not a single thing!  We don’t have to do anything to get God to notice or approve of us.  God has already done that.  The quest for power and control, fame, fortune, and self-aggrandizement isn’t worth it.  It’s not real.  It’s often self-destructive.

Through this wilderness experience, Jesus learns what it means to be grounded.  He learns who he is and that he doesn’t have to do anything to prove himself to anyone.  He learns what Moses experienced when he finds himself in the presence of God.  He’s standing on “holy ground.”  It takes a little persuading but Moses finally discovers that the ordinary sand of the desert is actually holy.  Not only that, but he’s standing on holy ground; and he’s fully grounded.

What is the ground on which you stand?  This Sunday we’ll explore that as we continue our Lenten theme “Holy Places and The Places Where our Lives Become Whole.”

Lenten Blessings,

Dan

 

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Exodus 3: 1-6

God “speaks” to Moses from a burning bush.

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  There the angel of God appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; and Moses looked, and lo, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.  And Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burnt.”  When God saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!”  And Moses said, “Here I am.”  Then God said, “Come no closer!  Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”  And God said, “I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham and Sarah, the God of Isaac and Rebekah, and the God of Jacob and Rachel and Leah.”  And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Luke 4: 1-13

Jesus is tempted in the wilderness

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 Jesus ate nothing (fasted) in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry.  The devil said to Jesus, “If you are the Child of God, command this stone to become bread.”  And Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘One shall not live by bread alone.’”

And the devil took Jesus up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said, “I’ll give you all the power and the glory of these nations; for it has been given to me, and I can give it to whomever I wish.  If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.” And Jesus answered, “It is written,

‘You shall worship the Holy One your God,

and God only shall you serve.’”

And the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said, “If you are the Child of God, throw yourself down from here; for it is written,

‘God will give God’s 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 replied, “It is said, ‘You shall not tempt the Holy One, your God.’”

When the devil had finished all this tempting, Jesus was left alone.  The devil awaited another opportunity.

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