Life is a Risk – Lent 1

19 Feb

Taking
risks is often seen as the specific territory of teenagers, particularly
teenage boys. Time and time again we are told the latest tragedy, accident or
foolish behaviour is the result of young men responding to the adrenalin rush
of going one step further than it was wise to do.
I
would suggest we have all taken risks, foolish risks and survived, sometimes in
one piece, sometimes a little battered and broken but still standing, mostly a
little wiser, at some point in our lives. Looking back over my youth I confess
to many such risky behaviours, but how else would I get the nickname ‘Loose’? I
was given that name because I consistently went one step further than those
around me at the time. I drove faster, drank more and took crazy risks others
only talked about. Amazingly, I survived.
Yet,
taking risks is a part of all of our lives. 
It is dialled in. Perhaps not in the foolish way some teenagers and I
have experienced it, but in a calculated and planned manner. No business
succeeds without the risk of going broke. No athlete competes without the risk
of not finishing. No politician leads without the risk of failure. No person
loves without the risk of being rejected. Getting married and having children
is a risk. Risk is hard wired into our lives as humans.
Therefore
it is no coincidence the first thing God does with Jesus after his baptism is,
he takes a risk with him. He sends him out into the desert for 40 days without
food. He was fasting. Fasting is no easy task. 40 days without food would mean,
not only were you hungry, but your mind would start playing tricks on you, you
would start to think dangerous thoughts and begin to look for a way out of the
situation you found yourself in.
At
the end of the 40 days, ‘he was famished’ and that’s when the temptations
begin. Not at the beginning when he was fresh, full of commitment and
discipline. Not halfway through when he was hungry but still filled with the
desire to get it right. But at the end. God places Jesus in a solitary
aloneness where there was no consolation except his relationship with God.
Would that hold? Could Jesus experience the desolation of his humanness and
resist the temptations that arose with in and without him and hold onto God?
Could he?
The
temptations come in 3 distinct forms, but they are typical of the temptations
we face everyday.
·     
In the first Jesus is tempted to use his power
to create food for himself, the ‘old rock into bread’ trick. If you have the
power and you’re hungry, do something about it. This is the battle between
Jesus’ divinity and humanity. If he succumbed he would have denied the
Incarnation, he would no longer be human, just a divine actor on a stage called
earth. He remained human.
We are challenged many times to do things just because we can,
and by so doing, shortcut our experience of being human in exchange for less
pain, suffering and joy. Just because we can, should we?
·     
Secondly, Jesus is tempted to change sides. From
where he is standing he can see the world and us tempted to get what he came
for the easy way. This is the ‘old the end justifies the means’ justification.
I am here to rule over the world, here it is being offered on a platter, why
not just say yes and take it? Doesn’t matter how you get it, but if you get the
outcome you need, that’s all that matters, isn’t it? Jesus is being asked if he
can trust God with this task, even the process will be difficult, painful and
risky. He does. He chooses to trust his relationship with God, even though he
suspects that this is going to hurt, that it will cost him and without
commitment, discipline and trust there will be no outcome at all.
This is a major temptation for us. We want to avoid pain,
suffering and struggle and be happy all the time.  The temptations of the consumer world promise
that. Wear the right clothes, buy the right car, live in the right street, use
the right toothpaste and it will all be yours. Your can and will achieve the
kingdom of happiness. Alas, we know from experience that’s not so and we either
become bitter, sad or blame others (especially God), or we simply settle for
less than the kingdom God promises. The kingdom of God is only accessible
through the full journey of our humanity, a rollercoaster o pain, suffering,
discipline, hope, good times, not so good times and more, but they all add up
to that moment when we die to ourselves and are resurrected into a new way of
being human.
·     
Finally, Jesus is tempted to find out if God
loves him as much as he says he does. He is asked to take the ultimate risk and
leap to certain death, waiting for God to rescue him. He doesn’t.  He simply says don’t set God up; don’t let
your expectations get in the way God works. He resists that temptation on the
Cross, where people are taunting him and calling upon him to call upon God to
save him, he doesn’t. In the midst of the pain of being a human who was
deserted, brutalised and lost, he maintains his trust in his relationship with
God.
This is a temptation we can easily fall for. When all has
collapsed and we are desperate, how about calling God out, seeing what God will
do?  Judas tried that and he got more
than he bargained for. Like Jesus we are called on to stay faithful in our
brokenness, trusting that God will be faithful to our relationship.  But at all times we are to be faithful. That
was the purpose of the Incarnation. Jesus came to experience what it meant to
be a human in relationship with God and other humans. Like him, we are to grow
into it.
For
Jesus it was a risk to become human, leaving his divinity behind; for God it
was a risk to put Jesus in a place of great risk, that of being human (Jesus
could have succumbed, it was always a possibility otherwise we have been
deceived); and for humanity, us, it was a risk, for if that happened we would remain
eternally lost.
Being
human is the only way to live into the risk of God’s love. Go for it!
Text: Luke 4:1-13

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