We will not be perfect in the face of temptation and we will mess up–yet we will continue to be loved, and chosen by God.
Vicar Mollie Hamre
1st Sunday in Lent, Year A
Texts: Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11
Beloved in Christ, grace and peace to you in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our readings from today are two different stories of temptation.
One, coming from the first reading in Genesis. The other is from the Gospel according to Matthew. In Genesis, we hear the story about humanity in the garden. God asks humanity to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and as we know, they do. Trust is broken, the pain of the world is exposed, and our tradition looks back on this story with a guilty conscience. The world that God hoped to shield humanity from comes into full view and it is full of struggle and suffering. Humanity becomes ashamed, full of remorse, and hides from God in the coming verses.
The other passage, from the Gospel, takes place after Jesus is baptized.
Jesus is sent into the wilderness and tempted three times. Each time Jesus denies the temptation and answers faithfully with scripture. This sometimes feels like a no-brainer. We know that Jesus will not give into temptation. Might I remind you that the man in question is Jesus, the son of God. So when we hear this Gospel, it feels like a clear ending: Jesus, God with us, will perfectly follow God when tempted. He will have the right answers. The wisdom to see through the tricks. The strength to stand up against corrupt forces. But us, on the other hand, as much as we try, some days we don’t have these same characteristics.
It feels a little obvious that the response from humanity and the one that Jesus gives are drastically different. We hear the story about humanity messing up big time, while Jesus has the perfect answers.
The comparison that is set before us is not great.
We want to walk in the guided steps of God, but sometimes we fail, get confused along the way, and make choices that would have been better with hindsight. So when Jesus does all the right things, what does that tell us about when we do the wrong things? What else is there to this?
To start with, the big difference between Genesis and the Gospel is not giving into temptation, but the part that involves our connection to God. See, when God creates humanity and begins a relationship with creation, God shows the truth about relationships: they are messy. And in that messiness, that human-ness, is where we connect with God.
And in response to that messiness, our messiness, God does not abandon humanity, but instead Jesus comes to be human in our world.
“For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus, who abounded for the many.” In the face of temptation, God chooses to be with us and leans in closer. Jesus, God with us, experiences what it means to be human.
So, when we see Jesus face temptation, his answers are in connection to God.
Living on the bread that God gives. Trusting in God, not testing. Worshiping only God, not worshiping one’s self. The Gospel today does not tell us that we need to perfectly follow the path of not sinning, but to help us consider what forms of temptation are present today and that we are held amidst them.
When we are convinced that our guilt and brokenness dominates ourselves more than for who we are: beloved, held, and in relationship with the Triune God. That is the relationship the Psalmist speaks about today when saying they “acknowledged their sin to God and did not conceal their guilt.”
But it is hard to consider that we can be loved when we mess up.
Especially when we identify with the ones in Genesis that mess up. The ones amidst the pain of the world. The ones that would rather separate ourselves from the shame of the story. The ones that can easily separate from the suffering in our world today.
Questions and curiosity are wonderful aspects of our faith lives, but the difference is the way the situations go forward. In Genesis, humanity hides and decides that holding that guilt is more important than being open and vulnerable. This is not a story that we should look back on with disdain, but as a coming of age story. A coming of age story that we all experience in different ways. One that brings into view the first times we witness the pain in the world and have to be brave to see that God is loving us amidst it too. But this kind of life asks us to be honest. To reconnect with ourselves. To awareness to change. All scary aspects of life because it asks us to go outside of ourselves. To see our polluted earth. To see the shootings. To see our neighbors suffering injustice. It hurts.
And yet, simultaneously believe that we know God is there too.
That Jesus, God with us, experienced life’s temptations, sufferings, and struggles to understand us. As the Body of Christ, this is our coming of age story–one that can not be ignored, but opened up. Changed. And rising once again to new life.
The coming of age story that tells us we will not be perfect and still continue to be loved by a God who knows this. We will not be perfect in the face of temptation. You will mess up. But you can not ignore the world that you are called to be open to either. You will be challenged through all of it. You will have a community through all of it. And you are loved, dearly loved, through all of it too.
In the name of the Father, and of the ☩ Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.