I have been trying to grab hold of Jesus for as long as I can remember. As a young teenager, I had this incredible oversized 3-D postcard of the Shroud of Turin. The thing was awesome. If you held it to the light one way, you saw an artist’s rendering of the face of Jesus, inspired by a photographic negative of the Shroud. It was a death mask, eyes closed. But if you moved the postcard the other way, the eyes of Jesus would open. I spent hours flipping back and forth and watching those eyes open and close. And I used to wonder: “What if I am looking at the very face of Jesus the moment he was resurrected?”
One spring in Jerusalem, two parades marched into the city. And one spring, two thousand years later, in Knoxville, Tennessee, two groups gathered to hold rallies on opposite sides of the same street. On one side of the street were people in white robes with pointed hoods and hate in their hearts, holding signs with hateful slogans and racial slurs. “White power,” they chanted. “White power.”
Some experts predict that the next Great War will be fought over water. The simple and ominous truth is that on our overcrowded, over-burdened, and terribly abused planet, there is not enough fresh, clean water to go around. The World Health Organization reports that in 2017, 1 out of 10 or 663 million people lack access to safe water. And human-induced climate change will only exacerbate that. The future of the human race is tied to our access to water...
You might be surprised by how many preachers are ready to give up on religion. A few years ago a study of professional ministry indicated that, among other things, three out of four members of the clergy regularly consider leaving the ministry. And a lot of that dissatisfaction is about the institution itself and trying to maintain the institution. And it’s not just the clergy who feel that stress. The lay leaders feel it as well. Every now and again a member of the Board of Stewards will finish her or his term and is never seen again. How is it that the very thing that is supposed to give us new life instead takes the little life we have left?
The Gospel lesson today is about a journey into darkness. And it begins with one of the strangest verses in all of the New Testament: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Did you hear the disconcerting juxtaposition of good and evil? Jesus our Lord was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness in order to be tempted by the devil. Now only a few chapters later Matthew recorded what is commonly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer, with its famous line, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” So we pray for deliverance from evil while at the same time it seems that the Spirit can lead us to confront it.