Sunday, March 26, 2017

Surely, we are not blind, are we?

Scripture Lessons: Psalm 23 and John 9: 1-41 Sermon Title: Surely, we are not blind, are we? Preached on 3/26/17 This week has been hell for several members of our community. I’ve read about it in the paper every day, as I’m sure you have. Our community has been on the evening news, the Today Show, everything – all in the hope of saving a 15-year-old girl who met her 50-year-old teacher at Shoney’s and hasn’t been seen since. We long to understand how and why, and so we talk in the grocery store aisles and in the hallways. Here at the church, every morning, we’ve been gathering around Renea Foster’s desk in the church office to discuss our theories and who is to blame. Most people blame the teacher for not acting like a responsible adult, for taking advantage of a young girl entrusted to his care. Obviously, he’s to blame. But the plot thickens – he was under investigation for inappropriate contact with this student, but many, including the family’s attorney, blame the School Board for this mess believing that they should have acted sooner to get this man out of the classroom. Maybe they should have, but “what about the girl” some say? Others have blamed the girl. Some blame her parents. Every day we go to the paper looking for answers wondering: Who sinned? This is human nature, and so it’s no surprise that the Disciples, when faced with another human tragedy, that of blindness, ask the same question. Our Second Scripture Lesson began: “As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” This question here is based on a theological assumption – the strongly held belief that suffering and sin are related – and while blindness as a deserved punishment seems like a strange concept to us, certainly we relate suffering and sin in all kinds of circumstances. When a teacher runs off with a 15-year-old student we assign blame. Blame. Who sinned? That’s one subject we humans want to talk about and often rightly so – we focus on sin and blame and justice – but as the Disciples follow along this line of debate asking: “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind,” listen to what Jesus does. Jesus “spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam”. Then he went and washed and came back able to see.” Rather than engage in the debate, Jesus does something about it – he gives this man his sight. Imagine! The problem they had been discussing – solved, solution provided, a miracle right before their eyes – this is exactly what they really wanted right? However, while it is human and can even be helpful to assign blame and to discuss the cause of the problem just as we do in the case of Elizabeth Thomas and Tad Cummins – it is tragic when the problem is solved, when the solution is provided, when the miracle comes right before their eyes, and no one rejoices. It is a tragedy when people become so practiced in looking for blame, that they are blind to miracles. That’s what happened. Listen to this – after the man went and washed and came back able to see, “The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him.” What were they asking, and why weren’t they rejoicing? Isn’t that sad? But it happened. A people so focused on the problem, so practicing in assigning blame and debating “who sinned,” that they glossed right over the miracle. And then the Pharisees get involved, and when Pharisees get involved there’s always trouble, and they are stuck on the fact that “it was a Sabbath day” when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes and so they boldly proclaim: “This [Jesus] is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath.” Now why did any of that matter? Why an interrogation and not a party? Couldn’t they just be happy for this man? Where was the cake and the parade celebrating the day when the man born blind regained his sight? Instead, the investigation continues. Why? Because a culture trained to look for sin can be blind to miracles. A culture trained to look for sin, blemishes, mistakes – can’t always see beauty and blessings. The question of “Who sinned” and when and how, and did he heal you on the Sabbath, kept all of them from seeing a miracle, a story of redemption and forgiveness and healing. And we’re not so different. We become problem focused and not solution focused as well. Do you know what I mean? We’ve been having a bathroom remodeled at the house. It was supposed to take 4 weeks and it’s been 4 months. Why? we started to ask – why is this taking so long? Well, the contractor blames the plumber. The plumber blames the contractor – but all I want is a toilet that flushes. It’s trouble when we get too distracted by blame. But that’s human nature – look at Washington. We read about health care reform in Washington DC – so many say that “an alternative to Obama Care must be found,” but just because this new plan was not Obama Care doesn’t mean that it was any good, and if not being Obama Care is the only goal for a new plan than the Right has become problem focused and not solution focused – for the goal of any plan ought to be nothing other than providing affordable health care to the citizens of this country. Now I’ve just criticized the Right, but there is no monopoly on the dysfunction of focusing more on problems than solutions so let me say this to my friends on the Left: just because the President said it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Of course, many of the things that he says are bad (many of the things that he Tweets are bad rather), but just being against Donald Trump doesn’t make you a leader or a hero, for if your priority is finding blame rather than finding solutions, that makes you not a congressman but a Pharisee because you’re more interested in who’s to blame than serving the American people. I hate Pharisees. Don’t you? Unfortunately, I’m prone to being one. It’s hard not to be. Think about how often we see the drama that plays out in our Second Scripture Lesson come alive in the workplace. Sally proposes a new plan for saving money and Rose offers a counter plan. Why? Because Rose hates Sally, and as soon as that happens you don’t have a workplace, because a workplace is where work gets done. What you have when drama takes over is a theater. It happens in families too – Aunt Janie wants to have the Family Reunion at her house, Uncle George wants to have the reunion at the State Park. Guess what happens – they get into an argument and the Family Reunion never happens, and yes, I am speaking from personal experience so feel free to be honest about this issue yourself. When we get more interested in who’s idea it was, the character of the one who did it – then our focus has strayed from the solution. We’ve become problem focused rather than solution focused – sin focused rather than miracle focused, and don’t be surprised if nothing ever gets done again and don’t be surprised if life feels more like an interrogation than the celebration God created it to be. Look again at our Second Scripture Lesson – the Disciples want to know who sinned. The Pharisees want to know when he healed the man. The parents just don’t want to offend anybody. And meanwhile – Jesus gave this man sight. “We are not blind, are we?” You better believe it. Because we’re blind to solutions – blind to miracles. All we can see is drama and problems, and now that I think about it, if that’s all I get to see, it’s better to be blind anyway. So, I turned off the news. You know why? Because if it’s not a problem, if it’s not drama, if there’s not someone yelling at someone else – it’s not news by the standards of this present evil age. And I don’t always realize it, but a constant exposure to problems without any solution just sucks the life out of me. I’m leaving it behind, because I want to be like this man who regains his sight – I want to follow Jesus who has the Good News – who can make the blind see – who can forgive sin rather than just discuss it. Amen.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Water from the Rock

Scripture Lessons: John 4: 5-42 and Exodus 17: 1-7 Sermon title: Water from the Rock Preached on 3/19/17 I can say, especially based on these two Scripture Lessons that we’ve just read, that the Bible has more relevance for us in this 21st Century than any other book. Now, of course, you all would agree with me on this point. If you didn’t agree that Scripture had tremendous relevance than you probably wouldn’t be here this morning, but I am struck especially by these passages and the way in which they speak to issues that we are dealing with every day. Now the details are different. It’s possible to get hung up on the practicalities of these passages – these passages are obviously ancient. “If these people were thirsty, why didn’t they just buy some bottled water” we might well ask, but let’s get past the details, for while we might not know we depend on naturally occurring springs for our water today, can’t you relate to Moses, who in trying to lead the people is nearly driven mad by their constant complaining? Or while this scenario of going down to an ancient well for water seems distant and removed from our modern lives, are many not still threatened by the social ostracizing that this Samaritan woman fell victim to? “It was about noon,” the Gospel of John tell us, and why does John’s Gospel tell us the time? It’s not often that time is mentioned in Scripture. I don’t know how uncommon it is to mention the time in Scripture, but time isn’t mentioned much, so when it is we must stop and pay attention. Why then would the Gospel of John tell us that “Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well [and] It was about noon”? Because by noon, all the other women had long ago come and gone from this well. All the other women went down to the well when the sun was low on the horizon, the air was cool, and they began their day together by fetching water, and while they did they joined in discussing whose husband snored and whose child had a nightmare, and “your mother isn’t doing very well, is she?” and “when will your son be coming home from the city?” These conversations happened in the morning. All the women gathered there in the morning. But “Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon,” and “A Samaritan woman came to draw water.” Why did she go to the well at noon? Because it was better for her to go to the well when she knew that no one else would be there. Now most people in our culture today don’t know much about fetching water from a well, but the Bible is still relevant. You know that the Bible is relevant, because as much has changed, you still know what this woman was feeling. Maybe you were 14, and it was better for you to go to the swimming pool when you knew that no one else would be there. Maybe you spent the night some place you wish you hadn’t, and you snuck back home while it was still dark, because you knew no one would see you. Or better yet, maybe you sat by yourself in the school cafeteria, because they had seen you, and now no one wanted to be seen with you. So, you just got used to eating by yourself. You got used to being alone. You got used to not needing them or their acceptance that you were never going to get anyway. But then he showed up. “Give me a drink,” he says, and you do it, maybe just because you’d gotten into the bad habit of always doing what men ask you to do, only then it strikes you how strange he seems and so you ask, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” Living water. That’s what he has. That’s who he is. That’s what he is offering you and me today just as he’s been offering it for the last 2,000 years. But you know what we do? We keep going back to broken cisterns. Desperate for affirmation, we go looking for it in all the wrong places. He invites us to the Promised Land, but you know what – we’re too busy looking at our phones and listening to what they say about us, to notice him standing there showing us the way. They. Do you know who I’m talking about when I say “they?” When I was a child I told my Mom, “You know what they say Mom, mouth wash is proven to fight plaque and gingivitis better than brushing alone.” My Mom responded: “Just who is they, Joe?” They are the four out of five dentists who approve of your toothpaste. They are the scale and its numbers – the diet plan and the points. They are the likes that you get on the picture, and the compliments you receive or don’t receive for the outfit. “They” are the ones who told this Samaritan woman to go to the well at noon – and she listened. “They” are the crowd who called for Jesus’ crucifixion – and Pilate gave in. “They” are the people who quarreled with Moses, and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” And “they” will drive you crazy – so don’t let them into the sanctuary of your home, don’t keep your phone next to your bed to see what they say. Don’t let them rank you according to likes and followers and views. And you better not ever let them into this church because they have no jurisdiction here – this is God’s house and you would be better off to hear what he say to say about you, as opposed to they. Because they can’t tell you how good you are. Or how beautiful. Give them up - because it’s your creator who knows – and I tell you every Sunday the same exact thing – or last week Hattie Hedrick told you and she’ll tell you again today: “Remember who you are, for you are God’s own,” and that matters because we live in the world where people are always trying to tell us. People are always complaining about us and judging us. Telling us what we can and can’t do. And these days it not just people. Last Wednesday Anna Grace Taylor invited me to ask her Magic 8 Ball a question, and so I asked, “am I a good dancer,” and the magic 8 ball said, “Very doubtful.” It’s just like the well, that place where everyone was looking and judging, and one woman was so worn down by it she started going there at noon so she wouldn’t have to hear it anymore. But if you want to really live, if you know what she was feeling and you’re tired of it – if you want to have the living water – you’ll stop listening to them, and you’ll start listening to him. Give up the distraction of it. Don’t let their voice into your house, but to do that you might have to get rid of your phone. I like cell phones, but I don’t like them too. I don’t like all the comparing and all the ranking. I don’t like hearing from “they” day in and day out. I called Karen Phillips this week on her cell phone. She didn’t pick up and the message says: “This is Karen, and I wasn’t able to pick up the phone because I’m probably still digging through my purse trying to find it. Or, I left it somewhere. Or, more likely, it turned itself off again. Regardless, leave a message and I’ll call you back.” Isn’t that the best? Doesn’t that sound like the way to be. To be free – to be free from voices who want to define us, categorize us, rank us. To be free from all the criticism and hopelessness that “they” heap upon us – so that we can finally hear his voice telling us the truth. The truth that is like water to the thirsty, like an ever-flowing stream. The truth that washes away sin, doubt, and hopelessness – this water that will spring even from a rock in the desert. Speaking of that rock, the great difference between Moses and us, is that when the people quarreled with him saying “Give us water to drink” and “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?”, rather than be brought low by these harsh words or capitulate to them, Moses cried out to the Lord. The Lord responded: “Strike the rock, and water will come out of it.” The Bible has much to say to us. It’s as relevant today as it ever was, for still “they” tell us what is possible. Still they try to tell us who we are. Still their voices bring us down – but listen, still he offers us the living water. Still water streams from rocks. Still only he can tell us who we are. Amen.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Seeking the Light by Night

Scripture Lessons: Mark 10: 17-27 and John 3: 1-21 Sermon title: Seek the light by night Preached on 3/12/17 You caught the important detail John gives us at the beginning of our Second Scripture Lesson. I know you did, because you’re smart, and so you caught this detail that “a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews…came to Jesus by night.” Not in the day – by night. Not when people would have been out and noticing things – like where the good Pharisee was and who he was going to see, but at night when inquiring minds were at home minding their own business. Because of this detail I’ve been critical, others have been critical of Nicodemus too, because “at night” is when people do things that they wouldn’t normally do during the day. You have that think that Nicodemus goes to see Jesus at night because he doesn’t want anyone to see him going over there. He’s like the guy you know who parks at Baskin Robbins to go over to the liquor store. He’s the kid who parks in the driveway and honks his horn for your daughter, rather than come to the door to face you like a man. Certainly, it’s easy to read this passage, notice this important detail, and look with judgement on Nicodemus because he seems something like the boyfriend who breaks up with his girlfriend over text message, but I’ve come to an important understanding this week because I’ve realized that one of the biggest problems I have with text messages and all the face to face contact that they avail you from is that they weren’t around when I was in high school. Had they been I wouldn’t have spent weeks working up the courage to ask someone out to the Homecoming Dance – I would have just typed that simple phrase on my phone and sent it. Back in my day, you had to handle a lot of sensitive business face to face in broad day light, and had I the technology to text a date, well, “Why have an awkward face to face conversation when you can get rejected by text instead,” says Linzi Anderson of Lewisburg Presbyterian Church. Nicodemus goes to Jesus at night. Not in broad day light where everyone can see and talk and make assumptions, but at night. Because he’s a Pharisee, a leader of the Jews, and as Jesus had just stormed the Temple in Jerusalem in the chapter before, the Lord thereby proving himself to not be the kind of person that the respectable rub shoulders with. Nicodemus goes to Jesus when it was safer to do so. But not only that, in the words of John Calvin, that great theological mind who laid the ground work of our Presbyterian faith: Nicodemus, is of the Pharisees. And “this designation was, no doubt, regarded by his countrymen as honorable; but it is not for the sake of honor that [this title] it is given to him by [author of John’s Gospel], who, on the contrary, draws our attention to it as having prevented him from coming freely and cheerfully to Christ. Hence we are reminded that they who occupy a lofty station in the world are, for the most part, entangled by very dangerous snares; nay, we see many of them held so firmly bound, that not even the slightest wish or prayer arises from them towards heaven throughout their whole life. Why they were called Pharisees; for they boasted of being the only expounders of the Law, as if they were in possession, of the marrow and hidden meaning of Scripture.” So surely while there is some self-serving, ego driven, status preserving reason that Nicodemus seeks out Jesus at night, what strikes me now, is that doing what Nicodemus does is normal enough. Nicodemus goes to Jesus at night, because some people, people of high status who are used to preserving it, are often only ever able to be honest under the cover of secrecy. Nicodemus goes to Jesus at night, because being real, for some, is such an act of vulnerability that only the cover of night makes it possible. Nicodemus goes to Jesus at night, because for those who feel inclined to maintain the air of having things under control, words like: “Would you go out with me,” or better yet – words like: “I’m lost and need help” are so hard to say that only the bravest among us just come right out and say them. By so many, these words are mostly whispered, and only then if no one is looking. Maybe while in the car - when the one talking and the one listening are both looking at the road. Nicodemus goes to Jesus at night, because how else could he say, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Are these words not so courageous, whether they were said in broad day light or under the cover of night, that they deserve our applause and not our judgement? “Rabbi,” which means teacher – says a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews, who is supposed to be a teacher himself. Then, “We know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” What a confession this is – and I say that it is, a confession, an act full of precious vulnerability because Nicodemus had all the credentials, all the certifications – he was by all standards a holy man of Israel and yet this Jesus of Nazareth is the one who is doing all the signs and wonders. You know what this is like – it’s like an orthopedic surgeon, going to a chiropractor. Nicodemus has the courage of a doctor who sneaks over to the acupuncturist. It’s like the Presbyterian Minister who takes a Sunday off to go over to Maury Hills Church of Christ to see what all the fuss is about – “We know that you are a teacher who has come from God,” and while we are supposed to be the Frozen Chosen, we know that no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God” – yes, this is a bold act of courageous vulnerability. So, courageous, that most would never do it. For fear that they’ll be attacked, some never let their guard down this much. Show weakness – never. Admit that someone else can do it better – no way. Ask for directions? I’d rather drive all night having no idea where I’m going than risk being shamed by a gas station attendant: “You’re not from around here, are you?”. Vulnerability – even small acts of vulnerability are tough. Someone asks how you’re doing. “I’m fine. I’m fine,” and I’ll go on pretending that I am because taking the risk that you might judge me or reject me is just too painful a thought. What I realize now is that for years I’ve been pointing my finger at poor old Nicodemus for going to see the Lord at night rather than in the light of day, but listen – at least he goes. At least he asks. While he may be shielded by the dark of night, at least he seeks out the light. So many never get that far. Think about the rich man from our First Scripture Lesson. Jesus was setting out on a journey and a man ran up and knelt before him. “Good Teacher,” he says, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” This is a great question. An admirable question it would seem, for in asking the question the rich man seems to be admitting that he doesn’t know and so he asks. But Jesus said to him, “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and mother.” Then the rich man said to him – and this is the important part, the part that I really want to emphasize. After Jesus listed the commandments for him in all their unattainable glory, the rich man said, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Did you hear that? All the commandments – “I have kept all these since my youth.” Now I know that’s not possible, maybe you know that’s not possible too – but why would this guy so delude himself that he would proclaim to our Lord and God: “I have kept all these since my youth?” Because pretending that we don’t need help is easier than admitting that we do. Do you know how good kids can get at hiding their illiteracy? So, good that some graduate from high school while maintaining this awful secret. Do you know how well some grandparents can hide their dementia? So well that their children have no idea until it’s too late to do anything about it. According to Dr. Brene Brown, a noted scholar on the subject of vulnerability, rather than ask for help or confess that we need it, many people will work towards a perfection that they’ll never achieve because revealing their state of need is just too painful. Some people can’t say they need help. They just can’t stand the thought that they need it. And why is that? Many experts believe it is because of shame. In his book, Spirituality in Recovery, a 12 Step Approach, Dr. John Ishee, a good Presbyterian and the retired Director of Pastoral Care at Cumberland Heights Alcohol and Drug Treatment Center in Nashville writes: “There is an important difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is the feeling that we have done something wrong – that we have violated your conscience. Shame is more. It is the feeling that we are wrong – flawed, defective, less than, unworthy, deficient, disgraceful, bad – even evil. Guilt prompts us to think or say, “I made a mistake.” Shame prompts us to think or say, “I am a mistake.” Do you know how many people have received that message? Received it even from the church? I’m one of them. For years, I believed, and some days I still do, that sin is not so much an act that can be forgiven but a state that I am sentenced to. “Sinner.” Perhaps you’ve felt it before, as one woman did at our Ash Wednesday service not two weeks ago: “I can’t go forward to have those ashes on my head,” she told her friend, “I’m just not worthy.” And you can see here that shame causes us to miss the entire point. It keeps us resigned to the darkness for fear of exposure. It convinces us that we cannot be healed as the Israelites were in the wilderness when Moses listed up the serpent and all who looked upon it were saved. Shame convinces us that it’s not our deeds which are evil, but ourselves – that the ashes we wore on our foreheads cannot be washed away. But they can: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Come to the light – no matter how long you have walked in darkness, the darkness does not define you. And come to the water – where your sins will be washed away. Be born again, for anyone can be born after having grown old – and everyone, no matter how old, is still in need of the Savior who makes all things new. Amen.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

On knowing where to find it

Scripture Lessons: Genesis 2: 15-17 and 3: 1-7; Matthew 4: 1-11 Sermon Title: On knowing where to find it Preached on March 5th, 2017 I’ll begin today’s sermon with a poem of sorts: When I’m drivin’ in my car and the man come on the radio He’s tellin’ me more and more about some useless information Supposed to fire my imagination When I’m watchin’ my TV and a man comes on and tell me How white my shirts can be When I’m ridin’ round the world and I’m doin’ this and I’m signin’ that If you know now the poem than sing the last part with me: I can’t get no satisfaction. Cause I try, and I try, and I try, and I try What is it that all of us – from Eve in the Garden to Mic Jagger of the Rolling Stones, what is it that we all long for? What is it that we desire? According to our brilliant speaker last weekend, Dr. Jaco Hammon, it is transformation, and according to Mic it is satisfaction, but really aren’t they both talking about the same thing? These elusive states: Joy. Enlightenment. Fulfilment. We’re talking about the pursuit of happiness - the motivation behind so much of what all of us do. No one here wants just life – we want abundant life. No one here goes into student debt so that they can work at Starbucks – we were implanted with dreams and desires – we shoot for the moon so that at least we’ll end up among the stars. That great poet Dylan Thomas got it right: Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. We were not put on earth to pass through quietly, not to settle but to live. So, within Eve as within us all, is a desire to know more than what she knows already. And that’s far from bad. If the Wright brothers had been satisfied with life on the ground, they never would have flown. Had Copernicus settled for his ages explanations and answers we would never have learned that the planets revolve around the sun. If Socrates had not reached for knowledge where would we be? What’s true is that we are all looking for satisfaction, and this desire pushes us to innovate, explore, think, feel, write, paint, and sing. This desire for satisfaction pushes us towards introspection and repentance. It can push us towards being more than who we are, better than we were before, but what’s also true is that so often we go looking for satisfaction in all the wrong places, convinced that what God keeps from us is the very thing that we should have. And that’s part of why some people are drowning in debt. That’s part of why drugs fill our streets. That’s part of why eyes wander – because we go searching for satisfaction in forbidden fruit – for we are as stubborn as Eve was, what we can’t have is what we want the most, and as we try and we try and we try, still “I can’t get no, satisfaction.” The great Mary Shelly wrote about Dr. Frankenstein who reached so far beyond the drawn line that he created a monster, and indeed, are not monsters all around? Drugs are attractive because they promise satisfaction, but instead, they turn people into monsters who will beg, steal, borrow, and sell even their own bodies. God puts a limit on wealth saying that one cannot worship both God and money – and this command is for good reason, for the desire for more turns executives into blood sucking vampires, more concerned with profit than the livelihood of their fellow man. We want satisfaction, and what’s so interesting is that the further we reach beyond God’s command, the more wayward our steps beyond God’s will, the more elusive satisfaction becomes. “I can’t get no satisfaction.” Isn’t it something that Mic Jagger sang those words? I mean, that guy’s rich. Today, his net worth is estimated to be between 305 and 360 million, so he’s not the richest rock star in the world but certainly he can afford to buy everything that you’ve ever dreamed would make you happy. He’s done all the things that many people imagine would make them happy too. People go to all these extreme measures to become famous as Mic Jagger is famous, but listen to the words of his song: “I can’t get no satisfaction.” And I believe that’s because he’s like most of us, like Eve in the garden, we human beings have a deep desire for satisfaction and transformation – for love and happiness – for completion and purpose, and the snake tells us where we can find it – that all we need do is reach out and take a bite - but the snake is a liar. We read in our First Scripture Lesson from the Book of Genesis: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had make. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God know that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” That’s what’s happened – we want to be like God, deciding for ourselves what is good and what is evil rather than trusting the one who created us to tell us. We’ve been provided a manual by our manufacturer, but like a stubborn father we threw the directions out with the box and now we’re stuck with four screws that have no place to go. We were born with these desires – the desire for connection and community – but where do we go looking for these things? We go to the internet, where intimacy is easy and accessible and “risk free”. We want friends, and listen, on Facebook I have a couple hundred, but how many would show up if I needed help moving a sofa? And the credit card companies promise to fulfill our grandest material dreams – the snake tells us that we can have that new washer today – we can have a gold tooth and new pair of shoes – a house and a car and ring on our finger – it’s risk free they say. But the only guarantee in this deal is debt, debt, and more debt – not the satisfaction that’s been promised, because satisfaction is not nearly so easy. So, while we are like Eve, the serpent whispers and too often we listen. We go seeking satisfaction just beyond God’s command in the forbidden fruit right within our grasp, but there is another way. We read in Matthew that Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” The devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you.” All these – surely all these would bring satisfaction: food, self-preservation, and power. If we could turn stones to bread; if we could fall without dashing our foot against a stone; surely if we had the power to control, if we had dominion over the kingdom than we could straighten things out, then we would be satisfied we say. But Jesus shows us a different. Again, and again he shows us a different way, for while the devil offers us the things that we think will make us satisfied, the Lord chooses what will modeling this great Christian principle that it is not what we can have that will satisfy, but what we can give. The road to satisfaction, you see, is a road forged by sacrifice – not by bread, self-preservation, or power, but sacrifice. And to live, to truly live – is to live not for yourself. The snake tells us to eat the forbidden fruit. To buy our way to satisfaction. That love would come without vulnerability or risk. But the snake lies. We will only inherit the promised joy of our Lord and God by following in his footsteps of sacrificial love. Let us think of ourselves less and each other more – and satisfaction will be ours. Amen.