Wilderness: Spiritual Practice (2014-0214)

2016/02/14 Christ Church, Mountain Top; Lent 1, Scout Sunday
Call to Worship, Psalm 91.1-2, 9-16
Children, Deuteronomy 26.1-11
Additional reading, Romans 10.8b-13
Message, Luke 4.1-13

There is so much here:
      Temptation & sin
            Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, pride of life
            Wealth, sex, power
            Practice of fasting, and various kinds
            Its power against evil
            Its ability to clarify when we are confused
            “It is written” – answers already there! (Lectio)
            Invitation to MEMORIZE
                  “In him the memory took the place of books” (32)
                  Life of Antony, by Athanasius
      Son of God
            About privilege and power … or holiness and serving?
            Jesus is both “led by the Spirit” and “tempted by the devil”

Focus on one thing in the text: WHERE
      “in the wilderness”
      “into the wild” (MSG)
Over and over in the Scriptures, the people of God as a whole and men and women of God individually are led by God into the wilderness. “My father was a wandering Aramean.”

Wilderness in our experience:
      Romantic – early dates with Robin. Happy Valentine’s Day!
      Male bonding – spring break hiking trip with dad, summer canoe trip with Jesse, Scout camp outs
      Danger – copperhead on the trail, hunter out of season
Butch Courage

The secondary WHERE: ALONE

“Resurrect Me”, Jon Foreman
I tried to drown the pain with a friend of mine
It didn’t seem to help
She’s got a pretty face with the wedding lace
But I’m still waking up with my self

Over and over in the Scriptures, the people of God as a whole and men and women of God individually are led by God into the wilderness. And, it is not a safe place. Abraham and his son Isaac on a three day wilderness journey in which Abraham expects to sacrifice his son. Hagar and Ishmael dying of thirst. Moses thinking his life was over. Israel watching an entire generation destroyed through attrition and judgment. Elijah wishing he were dead.
      Now, it’s Jesus’ turn to endure the wilderness, and to be alone, for forty days and forty nights. He lies down, alone. He wakes up, “with my self.” He is face-to-face with evil in its most appealing form. His natural desires for food, recognition, success, ambition, are being undermined and turned against him. Even holiness is turned against him – the devil quotes Scripture!
      What happens for Jesus is what needs to happen for us when we are in our wilderness. He learns to accept natural desires without allowing it to control his life. He learns to pursue holiness without becoming obsessive.

Egyptian monastics, the Desert Fathers
St Anthony (story told by St Athanasius)

Accepting natural desires without allowing them to control us:
The ascetic must always acquire knowledge of his own life (37).

Pursuing holiness without becoming obsessive:
Therefore let us also pay [demons] no heed, treating them as strangers to us, and let us not obey them, even in the event that they arouse us for prayer, or talk to us about fasting. Rather, let us devote ourselves to our own purpose in the discipline (51).

The victory is not ours, but belongs to Jesus:
The Lord, who bore flesh for us, … gave to the body the victory over the devil, so that each of those who truly struggle can say, It is not I, but the grace of God which is in me. (34)

“Resurrect Me”, Jon Foreman, on the Summer EP and Limbs and Branches LP

Athanasius. Translated by Robert C. Gregg. 1980. The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus. New York: Paulist Press. (Originally written around the year 356).


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