[for the audio of this sermon please click on the above link]
We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit, and all those who look for peace, rest, renewal and restoration in Jesus said … AMEN!
Yea, there are plenty of times when you just want to chuck it. We are blessed that the people who stuck with First St Johns didn’t feel that way. We are blessed with those who have persevered, carried on and passed on Lutheran worship here. And very blessed that the Holy Spirit has kept us strong and committed. But all of us, no matter how bull-headed have had times when we just want to pull back and rest. A lot of times we feel that being a Christian is a grind, always things to do, always a new season. Usually we are excited, anticipating the new season. Other times we feel we haven’t recovered from the last chain of events, and we’re looking down a whole new line of hoops to jump through. There are certainly times when we just need to pull back and rest. We can, and often are led to by the Holy Spirit to rest and re-energize for a new pursuit, new growth in Christ.
While we can make it that way, being a Christian isn’t about being ground down with constant tasks, constant occasions to have to step up and run into another burning house. Being a Christian is very much about rest, peace, promise, hope. It is about knowing that our heavenly Father isn’t pushing down on us, but we are there for Him to pull us up to him. The Father expects us to rest and wait for Him to move us, He doesn’t expect the effort to be on our part. We’ve all had the experience when you have felt the Holy Spirit grabbing you by the collar and sitting you down. “No more, stop, I’m not about constant frenzy. I am about peace, rest.” Jesus told us; “ESV Matthew 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” This is meant for the resurrection, but it’s also meant for this life too.
Rest, recovery is important. It is stressed over and over again with athletes. An athlete has to get eight hours of sleep. God designed our bodies to be mended while we sleep. Not just mended, strengthened too. We cannot repair and build muscle without sleep. We can exercise, eat right, do all the active stuff, but if we do not give our body the chance to do what it was designed to do, rest, sleep, so our bodily processes can take over and repair and build, we will not be as strong as we should be. Since God designed our bodies to be like that, it stands to reason that He has made our spirits to be that way too. We can be in perfect physical health, but if our spirit has been pushed to the limit, beaten down, it will affect our health.
I submit that the season of Lent was timed by God in order to help us to do that. Winter puts a lot of stress on the body, certainly this winter has so far. We need to be set up in order to charge out into the season of growth and renewal and it seems God intended Lent for us to do that. We have grown away from an agrarian society, we are out of touch with the seasons that God created. Most of us have to work and produce year round, so we miss the importance of restoration, renewal and growth. Shouldn’t we see the period of Lent as that time?
In our reading today, we see that Jesus has been led out into to the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. It seems as though Jesus was given forty days of peace and then submitted to Satan’s temptations. Forty days where He was left to contemplate, to take in, to be built up, strengthened, fortified, and then to, as it were, take Satan’s best shots. Clearly Satan confronted Jesus when Jesus’ hunger was greatest and His resistance was lowest. The Jewish people actually considered the desert to be a place of evil, filled with trials and where evil lurked. God sent Israel into the desert to wander for forty years because they had continually defied God after escaping from Egypt, clearly that was a God ordained time out for people who just would not get with God’s plan. St Ambrose writes: “It is fitting that it be recorded that the first Adam was cast out of Paradise into the desert, that you may observe how the second Adam returned from the desert to Paradise… Adam brought death through the tree. Christ brought life through the cross. Adam, naked of spiritual things, covered himself with the foliage of a tree. Christ, naked of worldly things, did not desire the trappings of the body. Adam lived in the desert. Christ lived in the desert, for he knew where he could find the lost. With their error canceled, he could recall them to Paradise… So Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit is led into the desert for a purpose, in order to challenge the devil. If he had not fought, he would not have conquered him for me.” Jesus took the fight to Satan in an evil environment. All of Lent, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter is not about what we do or have to do. It’s not about us and what we have to do, because we don’t have to do anything. Sure there are things that we should do, we should be in worship. Not about us being there, but about being ministered to and receiving the gifts God gives us in worship. Worship is a time of rest and renewal. Jesus takes the fight to the desert, the desert which is the world, to confront Satan, in order that we can be left behind in our normal environment to live, to rest with a minimum of confrontation and conflict in our lives, we have time to rest and renew because it is about Jesus and what He does. When we are led by the Holy Spirit to take action, which can be to retreat, He steps up so that we are guided to step back. Jesus has been baptized, the Matthean version is more straightforward, Luke starts the chapter saying that Jesus was led from the Jordan, Matthew makes it clear what happened at the Jordon. In Jesus’ baptism, the Father makes it very clear who Jesus is, that was the signal that it was on. Satan knew it was on. The Holy Spirit picks Jesus up and puts Him in the desert, where Adam had been banished to out of Eden and Satan waits 40 days and then confronts Jesus, the battle is now on, who will impact the world. Satan tempts Jesus with worldly power, the easy way, Jesus knows that He will bring His Kingdom into the world, but it is not through a deal with Satan, but by overcoming sin, death and Satan; by being the perfect sacrifice to free us from sin and Satan. Jesus gives us the opportunity to rest in Him. Worldly people fall under Satan’s dominion in sin, to struggle against Satan, we have peace and rest in Jesus. The battle is on and being waged by Jesus, now.
Rev Dr Charles Stanley says this: “Although we can’t see all the specifics of God’s plan, we know that His goal is to use adversity to supply something we lack so we can be mature and complete. Even though the experience is painful, rest in the Father’s comforting arms, and let Him do His perfect work in you.” We cannot fight the battle, only in Jesus is the battle fought and is won. Yes, there will be times when we need to be active and work according to the Holy Spirit’s leading. But the victory is His and instead of us being smashed on the rock, we are at rest in Him who saves us. Use this time of Lent to rest in Him, be restored remember it is His strength not ours.
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom
 Ambrose in “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Luke” p 73
 Dr Charles Stanley August 10, 2015 http://www.intouch.org/read/magazine/daily-devotions/don’t-waste-your-adversities