3/10/19 – God Moves… Into the Desert, Luke 4:1-13

Jesus didn’t stay in one place for long.  His earthly ministry found him moving from one place, one miracle, one teaching, one encounter to the next.  He also moved through every part of the human experience, knowing temptation, joy, suffering and even death.  This worship series during Lent is called “God on the Move” which follows the revised common lectionary and reflections from Jessica LaGrone who is the Dean of the Chapel at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky using a resource entitled “A Preacher’s Guide to Lectionary Sermon Series”

 Each Sunday we will move with Jesus’ ministry starting with temptation in the wilderness to his condemnation on the cross. Many of the scripture verses shared in this Lenten study are places where I have visited in the Holy Lands and look forward to sharing some reflections on the places with you as well.   As we encounter the life and ministry of Jesus, we cannot stay the same.  We ourselves are moved to grow and change as followers of Christ.

 Let us hear how God moves into the desert reading from the gospel of Luke 4:1-13

 Unless we live in the same house where we were born in, most of us have packed up our things into boxes and moved from one place to another.

How many have moved to an urban city?
How many have moved to another country?
How many times have you moved in your life time…

 Next month, our family has been in our home for 11 years now.  Yesterday I was counting up personally how many times I had moved from college dorm rooms, to apartments, to a starter home, to our current home.  And it totaled 7 times.

 A few of our members have recently moved to a new place to call home, and I have a few of their boxes to reflect upon their experiences with you

 Pat Tuttle has moved many times during her life time, but recently moved last December from a patio home into an apartment at Summit Square. This tub holds a few treasures from multiple boxes that she has held on during the years.

She has keepsakes from her college years as a dental hygienist in 1955.  Many of us may have yearbooks like Pat, but Pat has kept her detailed hand drawings of teeth that are amazing, along with the impressions of teeth that she made in class.

Also in this box, you will find yarn and sweaters representing the time in 1983 when she quit smoking and began knitting.  Her youngest son went off to college.  Her husband’s father was a doctor and encouraged both her and her husband to quit smoking.  She new habit of knitting created at least 18 sweaters.   Some she gave away, some she made for her husband and some she keeps such as this one.
The yarn remains but the time spent knitting has now been replaced by her love for technology. We are grateful for Pat’s love of the computer for her time spent each week uploading our bulletin online here at Westminster!

 Moving taught Pat that we keep too many things, however the things she has kept are treasures and reminder her precious memories of the past.

Ashley Short moved in December from one house to the next in our community. And she gave me a lot of empty boxes that represent a lot of things she gave away. Ashley share, “I was reminded of truths that have always been hard for me- I can’t be in control of everything. I can’t make everything work based on my plan.  You have to rely on the Lord, lean on those He has given you!

 Moving teaches us things about ourselves that we could have never learned if we didn’t travel through that experience.  Moving involves the whole person; physically, emotionally and spiritually.  God can teach us a lot during this time in our life.

 The season of Lent gives us a chance to move inward as we move toward the cross.  During Lent we move into a deeper understanding of Jesus’ ministry here on earth and how Jesus is calling us toward deeper ways in our walk with him.

 When God became flesh in Jesus Christ, God became Emmanuel- A God with us. Jesus’ first step in his ministry after his baptism, was his move into the desert.  Being filled with the Spirit, He went immediately into the wilderness where he fasted for 40 days and where he was tempted by Satan. This experience placed demands physically, emotionally and spiritually for Jesus, showing that Emmanuel was not here on earth for a vacation but was here to walk through the struggles that we face every day.

 Tom Wright shares in the commentary Luke for Everyone how the Israelite’s 40 year journey in the desert mirrors Jesus’ 40 day journey in the desert.

Israelite’s grumbled for bread, made an golden idol and continually put God to the test.

Jesus faced these same temptations

but instead of turning stones into bread,

or making the kingdoms of the world his idol

or putting God to the test…

he relied on God’s strength and spoke God’s truth over each temptation.

 All of Jesus’ words to resist the temptations from the devil are from Deuteronomy -

 Jesus relied on the words of Deuteronomy 8:3 instead of turning stones into bread.
“He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

Jesus relied on the words from Deuteronomy 10:20 instead of receiving the kingdoms of the world offered to him:
“You shall fear the Lord your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear.”

Jesus relied on words from Deuteronomy 6:16 instead of testing his messiahship.
“Do not put your Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.”

Massah actually means test or temptation.  It was a reminder of the place where the Israelites were miserable and cried out against Moses and against Yahweh who they had thought had forgotten them.  They begged Moses to give them water, they questioned Moses of why he brought them out of Egypt to die of thirst.  It was at this place that Moses gave into their fears and cries instead of relying on Yahweh, he struck the rock and called the place Massah because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord at this place. This is also the place that limited Moses as a leader of God’s people and held him back from experiencing the promise land.

 Also the temptations we face are good on some level. How can water be bad in the desert?  God for some and not for others.  God for us and not for others.  Shades of good because we serve a kingdom of self rather than kingdom of God.

To tempt or test God is to lack faith that God is with you in every circumstance.

 Jesus’ response of God’s truth, can help us reflect on how the power of God’s word can help us in the temptations and trails of life.  God’s word found in Scripture and in the word made flesh, can move us with hope, with purpose, and into a new direction.

 We may not have spent 40 years or 40 days in the desert like the Israelite’s or like our Lord.  Yet we can think back to the deserts of our own life.  Seasons where we have felt burned out, empty, tempted by sin, stressed out, or lonely.

During these dry seasons maybe the hardest discipline is to abide with God during the season, during the storm, during the wilderness times. We can often say we abide with God before the season or after the season.  We are to unpack the boxes of our lives that may hold us captive to possessions or to the past, or to all the ways that tempt us away from following God so that we can move forward in his grace to unfold new adventures for his glory.

 When we feel like we are in our own deserts whatever they may look like,

know that we can rely on Jesus to lead us toward what is written in God’s truth, the Spirit can lead us to friends, colleagues, counselors and faith community to regain perspective, and that our God moves around us, within us, and walks with us as we travel this road to the cross.  Amen.

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