- The Revd Canon Camellia Flanagan, TSSF
Lent 1A 2023 Matthew 4:1-11 Genesis 2:15-17,3:1-7 Psalm 91 Romans 5:12.21
+In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Amen.
The Church has recalled the story in St Matthew’s gospel of the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness on this day since ancient times. This story is important for us in that so much of it is part of our own life experiences. It would be easy to say Ho Hum, Jesus was tempted and so are we, It is all Adam and Eve’s fault. The mess we and our world is in But is it?
This and all that happens in our lives is a war of cosmic proportions. Satan is not some little creature with a snarly face, pointed ears and a tail. Satan is a fallen angel with power and because he is outside God’s kingdom he is “narky” and constantly seeking ways to annoy and undermine God’s work. Satan is real, not symbolic and is constantly fighting against those who follow and obey God. The temptations are real and try to persuade us to live our own way rather than God’s way to live. Imagine for a moment where we would be had Jesus given in to Satan’s persuasion.? It does not bear contemplation and we would have been lost.
What does it mean to be tempted” It is to be pulled away from God by substituting the temporal for the eternal We are pulled away from the purpose for which we were created: to live in God, to be one with God, to delight in God, to know God as our Friend and constant Companion. Temptation also comes in the wish to disregard God’s words and commandments. It means to ignore the Beatitudes of Jesus, to forget to walk humbly with our God, to forget to love mercy and standing up for justice, and to forget compassion. It means that it is easier to choose the easy way instead of the reconciling way of the reign of God. All of us know, as Jesus knows that it is easier to pick up lifeless stones and hurl them toward one another, instead of passing the bread that sustains life.
It is easy to resist when we are on top of things, and life is going well, but when we are in a physical or emotional wilderness is when Satan finds us vulnerable and goes in for the kill. Just as when he suggested that Jesus should use his power as the Son of God to change the stones into bread, when he was famished, so Satan gets at us when we are tired, discouraged or ill.
But what was Satan really up to? What was implied, was that if Jesus didn’t change the stones into bread then Satan would doubt his relationship to God, and also doubt God himself. Jesus was not only tempted to satisfy his physical need, but also to satisfy his self- esteem and the integrity of the Trinitarian Godhead.
So if we have given in to temptation and sinned, what can we do? For centuries, believers, overcome by an awareness of their sins have found in the words of the psalms, a ray of hope. The psalmists shared with God both the depth of their sorrow and repentance, as well as the height of joy at being forgiven. They rejoiced in the knowledge that God would respond to confession and repentance with complete forgiveness. We who live on the other side of the cross of Christ, can rejoice even more than David and other Hebrew writers, because God has shown us that he is willing to forgive . There is a pattern in the psalms, of responding to God which we can follow. First, by recognizing sinfulness and the tendency to do wrong, to own up and not shove the blame on to someone else as Adam and Eve did. Sin is rebellion against God. There is the admission of sin to God. Then there is trust in God’s willingness to forgive and the acceptance of God’s forgiveness with joy.
Over the last few weeks we have been considering what God really requires us to do. Which briefly is simply to know God - In other words study God’s Word, meditate, pray and talk to God. Keep God’s commandments. To show God to others by the way we live and behave and the way we stand up for justice and to share God, by remaining faithful to Jesus’ command in Matthew 28 Verse 19 which says “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations”. Matthew’s gospel is a guidebook for our lives and we call to mind what Bishop Murray said about our financial giving.
Today is our Parish Annual General Meeting and if you look at page 27 of the report papers you will notice on the bottom line of the centre column of figures there is a very small minus sign. And the figure this belongs to is a deficit of $96,378.28 This means that we have spent in the last 12 months $96,378.28 more than we have received. Does this mean that we are living beyond our means? Yes and no. Yes because we did not receive enough money coming in to meet the daily expenses and No because the costs of running the business of a parish are high even when we prune our expenses and we have two non-stipendiary clergy in the parish. One Pastor and our Deacon Last Sunday Bishop Murray helped us to face the fact that this is unsustainable. Unsustainable means unworkable and not able to continue. That means, we need a Dean for the Cathedral, but will we be able to afford one? He has suggested that we all look at our finances and in spite of the fact that costs of living have increased. Have we been holding back on our giving?
Now I know that some people in our parish tithe, they give 10 % of their income and sometimes more than 10% of their time. And this all helps the parish towards paying our way. Let us consider for a moment.
The Basic rate for a single pension is $936.80 per fortnight or $468.40 per week without any added allowances 10% of a single pension without allowances is $46 per week which if a single person tithed this would be the giving from that person each week.
A Couple’s basic pension is $1413.40 per fortnight or $706 20 per week and 10% of this would be $70 per week. To give to this level would mean a certain amount of self-denial and the easiest way to do this is to put the giving for God’s work aside before we pay any bills, purchase basic food or purchase clothing, dine out or any other spending Another way to serve is volunteering our time. Yet another way is to invite more people to share the load. We are called to Make Disciples for God and everyone who is a Disciple of Jesus is a person who will want to share in the support of God’s work. As Disciples of Jesus, if we are true disciples, we will follow the command of Jesus who said “ Go – and make disciples.” Every true disciple of Jesus will invite more disciples. We are told that where our heart is. There our treasure will be also. So let us not hold back. Amen.
The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan TSSF