SERMON FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, 2-18-2018
LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI
Rev. Michael Larson
It’s a devastating scene this morning. The devil in the form of a serpent snarls at Eve. He spits venom and lies straight from hell at her. Did God really say? He says. You will not surely die he said. Satan attacks God’s Word. Tempts them toward unbelief in God. Tempts Eve to suspect that in some way God was dishonest and withholding good things from them.
The devil defiles the woman while Adam idly stands by and watches. It’s not his finest moment. He was called to love her, bring God’s Word to her, lay down his life for her, defend her from every danger. But just look at him. His knees are knocking.
The crunch of that fruit brought about pain, death, and hell. The result of their sin was the corruption of their nature, self-centeredness, shame, and separation from the God of love.
Adam, where are you? What a perfect opportunity to confess his sins. What a perfect opportunity to repent and flee to God for mercy! But no. Adam blames the wife whom God gave him and in so doing blames God for his sin. Eve follows his lead and blames the devil.
Adam was tempted and he failed. And so through one man death entered in and so passed to all men because all sinned.
The temptation for us is to be armchair quarterbacks. Oh, what a quivering pathetic lot Adam was, we say. What a failure.
But as we start a new season of Lent, I ask you, how are you responding to the enticements of the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh. How are you doing with temptation?
The word temptation comes from a Latin root that refers to stretching out, or putting material under tension in order to find out how strong it is. When you put someone to the test you want to see what he is really made of. So what are you made of? How are you doing with temptation?
How is your pride? Compare the time – the sheer amount of hours - you’ve spent confessing your sins to the time you’ve spent being critical of others, spewing poison, and slandering reputations.
Children, when parents discipline you out of great love do you snarl back at them and curse them like the devil himself? Married men, when a woman at work shows special interest in you, does your heart leap and does your mind wander off into lust and impurity?
For those of you who are single, how are you doing when tempted? Are you patient, disciplined, and chaste, always believing in your heart that God is good and kind to you? Or do you mistrust God, and think he is holding out of you.
When debt stacks up, and finances become uncertain, do you give up hope? Are become consumed with worry?
What are you made of? With all the temptation thrown your way - what sort of Christian soldier have you been? What sort of fight did you bring to the devil.
Or did you throw in the towel. Did you give in to Satan and his lies. Or did you presume on God’s forgiveness using the Gospel falsely and perversely as a cover for evil. The devil is a cruel master. The truth is, your greatest personal efforts against temptation are catastrophic failures.
But this morning, don’t despair and don’t lose hope. Our holy Gospel today brings good news for spiritual wimps and pathetic losers. Because we see our champion. The Spirit of God pushes Jesus up a mountain to do for you what you could not do for yourself. What Adam could not do. What Israel could not do. To succeed where you have completely failed.
Satan again and again shakes your confidence in God, your knees become wobbly and weak, you gave into despair. But Look at Jesus. “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” If your God is so great, why would he let you languish like this. But where you would rely on your own resources he comes back only with weapon of the Word of God, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” In other words, God and his promises is more than enough.
Satan attacks again “If you are the Son of God throw yourself down from the top of the temple…” “Surely he’ll save you. So just jump and trust. He’s promises to send angels!” Satan is tempting Jesus to look for proof that the Father loved him, but this is no different than unbelief. Jesus fires back “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”
And then the final temptation: “All these things I will give you if you will fall down and worship me.” But Jesus knows the mission. He knows the Father’s plan for him to suffer, to die, to shatter the jaws of hell, by rising from the dead. So Jesus fires away and shuts the devil’s mouth “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.”
For spiritual losers and wimps there is good news for you. Jesus fights for you. Your sins, your failures, your losses to Satan, would be placed upon him.
At his Baptism he was declared to the be the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. Like the scapegoat he was driven into the wilderness to carry your sins all away – to go toe to toe with Satan – to fight to the death – his death upon the cross.
This was the promise given to Adam and Eve in our reading this morning. The Seed to crush the serpents head. To utterly break the tyranny of death by rising on the third day. To announce forgiveness to unbelieving disciples and fair-weather friends – much like us.
God clothed Adam and Eve with skins to cover their shame but now he clothes you with the righteousness of his own Son. His obedience is your obedience. His righteousness is your righteousness. His victory over the devil and temptation is your victory over the devil and temptation. After all, he didn’t go out into the wilderness to fight for himself. He fought for you.
For spiritual wimps and losers, and all those who are troubled by sin there is good news for everyone this morning. Because your victory lies with Christ and Christ alone. Your strength is in coming to terms with the reality that you are no match for the devil. But the Lord certainly is.
In the wilderness he hungered so you could come to his church, and have a banquet set before you. Life giving food and a chalice running over with blood that forgives, pardons, and makes you holy. He went to a desert, a dry place, so you might be brought to where there is water that revives and restores.
This morning join ranks again in the victory march to the altar. A place where angels descend and devils retreat. Declare that God is a mighty fortress. Declare that our victory has been won. In the name of Jesus.
Prayer of the Church
Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.
For the baptized in Christ, that they would continually dwell in the shelter of the Most High, finding rest and refreshment in the Holy Church, where Christ is with His gifts, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For all pastors who have been called to serve in Christ’s stead and by His command, that they would preach the Gospel in its purity and administer the Sacraments according to Christ’s institution, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For those suffering under temptation and doubt, that they would be filled with the Holy Spirit and find comfort, peace and assurance in the One who overcame Satan’s temptations in the wilderness, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For Pastor Jacob Gaugert, that he would be blessed in his service to the Gospel of Christ, that those sitting in darkness may be brought into God’s marvelous light. That he would be preserved for all evil and be strengthened for the work set before him to preach your holy Word and train men for the ministry of Jesus Christ, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For Donald, our president; Scott, our governor; and all those who serve us at the federal, state and local levels of government, that they would serve with integrity and honor and for the benefit of all; and for all who serve in our military, that they would do so with honor and be kept from all harm, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the sick and shut-in, the hospitalized and recovering, and for all those currently undergoing trials and tribulations in this vale of tears, that they would be comforted by, and find refuge in, the sure and certain promise that nothing can separate them from the love of God, which is theirs through Jesus Christ, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For those who come to the holy altar this day, that they receive the very body and blood of Christ in repentance and faith, with reverence and awe, and to their abundant blessing, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For all the faithful who have departed this world in faith, let us give thanks to the Lord; and for those of us who remain in this valley of the shadow of death, that Your holy angels be with us so that the evil foe may have no power over us, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.