On Sunday I will end my sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. We will look at the phrase, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” It is quite a challenge to talk to a progressive congregation about issues like temptation and evil.
As I prepared, I looked back at the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry. As you will remember, he was driven there after he was baptized, and he heard from heaven that he was “Beloved.” Two of the temptations he faced began with the words, “IF you are the son (child) of God.”
I wonder if that is not the one true temptation and every other one is just a variation of it. I wonder if every life struggle isn’t simply a variation of our struggle to believe we really are a divinely loved creation.
We want prayer to be like an incantation that results in getting what we want, as though God is our celestial servant. We believe being God’s daughter or son should give us some kind of advantage in this life and reserve a special place for us in the next.
I got an e-mail recently from someone wanting to come to church and tell his story about how God miraculously healed his child. I declined his request. It is glorious his child is well, and I certainly believe in prayer. However, I also recently read an article about the thousands of children in African still dying of AIDS. Their parents no doubt are praying desperately for them. Jesus, if you really are the son of God, then use your power to satisfy your own hunger.
Jesus understood that life doesn’t work that way. Being a child of God is not an insurance policy against life’s hunger. Jesus trusted God in the midst of his struggles. I’ll admit it is easier to trust God when all your prayers are answered than to trust when your soul aches with hunger. Sooner or later, though, we must grow up spiritually and realize that what is happening in our life does not change the nature of God.
I used to think that atheists were incredibly arrogant people. No one knows enough to declare that there is no God. It’s like a child declaring that she has no mother, as though she gave herself life. Perhaps more arrogant, though, are people who claim to have a formula for who God is, what God thinks, and how God acts. Spiritually mature faith simply is trusting relentlessly without the need to comprehend fully or to explain.
It is resisting the need to turn stones to bread and trusting God’s love for us even in the midst of our aching hunger. It is resisting the urge to flee the wilderness for a place of certitude and comfort. It is trusting that we are God’s daughter or son despite the painful wildernesses of our life.
Rev. Michael Piazza