Preaching about The Garden of Eden and the Temptation in the Desert.

I had the honor of preaching yesterday.   I thoughts I might share my words.  If you want to look at the readings before hand they are here.  

Remember about a month ago when we had that snow day?
I gathered that Seattle didn’t get a ton of snow but where I live we got 9 inches.
9 inches is a lot even in places where is snows regularly.
But 9 inches of snow here is wild. 

There were branches all over the roads.
3 of the trees in our yard fell down.
And my whole community was a bit of a mess.
We also lost power for 36 hours.

I lost the chance to spend my snow day watching TV.
Because  I was trying to reserve every ounce of phone power,
I couldn’t take pictures and post them on Instagram.
Or even seeing what you were posting.
The internet was slow (no wireless) so there was no social media to be had.

We spent the day by the fire staying warm.
And even though it was a nice day I kept finding myself reaching for my phone.
Or wanting to watch TV.
Or even just look something up really quick.

By the second day I was going a bit mad.
I needed to tell work what was going on.
I needed to look up information about my children’s school.
I needed my world to be bigger than the dark cold house I felt stuck in.

I noticed though that I kept reaching for my phone.
Not just when I needed it, but also because I just wanted to look at something.
The habit of social media was dying hard.

These readings today are, obviously, about temptation.
Adam and Eve are in the mythical garden of Eden 
In their safe protected world.
The serpent tempts them to have the wisdom God has.

I don’t think that longing for wisdom is such a bad thing, actually.
But the way we get it can be complicated.

They eat the fruit, together, and then together they are eventually banished into the wilderness

Jesus in the Gospel, having just been baptized is tempted 3 times by the Devil.
I think it is important to remember, as we go through these temptations that
Jesus was Hungry, and thirsty.
Jesus was sunburned and chapped.
He was hallowed out, his hair was matted, his hips probably ached from sleeping on the ground.

So when the Devil tempts him with bread I think that is quite a good offer.
I don’t think Jesus would be crazy to turn stones into bread.
But Jesus knows it’s not just bread- but that we need food and God for true satisfaction.

Then the devil offers him to jump from the top of the temple and have the angels catch him.
Imagine how cool Jesus would be!
The pharisees would think he as amazing. Flying from building to building.
Leaping without bounds.
He would be the special effects in a world without special effects.
---but no—
Jesus is not interested in being cool. He is not going to sacrifice his belovedness for popularity.

Finally the devil offers Jesus a kingdom. 
Jesus, a marginalized Jew in a Roman world, a kingdom.
Imagine if he could have given his people a safe place to worship and live.
Imagine how they could be unafraid.
Imagine how relevant he would have been to his people.
He could have brought so much Justice to the world in need of it.

Again though, Jesus knows the colluding with the devil to do well is not good.
It is good dressed up and disguised.

In all of these Jesus is not tempted to bread because he knows that he is God’s beloved.
 God will let this end. God will feed him the bread of life.

He doesn’t need to fly down the temple and impress those around him,
He is God’s beloved, who cares what others think.

Jesus doesn’t need to say yes to the kingdom. 
Whatever work God is doing through him, the beloved, won’t be compromised. 

The temptations in our lives do not look like the temptations in Adam and Eve’s life.
We are not in the Garden of Even. Nor are we wandering alone in the desert.

But our lives, are their own wilderness Just as they were with Adam and Eve.
We live in the wilderness of human pain:
The wilderness of suffering, loneliness, depression, anger
The wilderness of stress, fear of inadequacy, grief, oppression,
The wilderness of awkward relationships and complicated romance

Our wilderness is real.
The temptation in our lives are about ignoring that wilderness.

We use all sorts of things to ignore that wilderness.
Remember that snowstorm I told you about.
The longer the electricity remained out the more anxious I got.
I was afraid our kids were getting too cold.
I was afraid that all of the food in our freezer and fridge would go bad
and we wouldn’t have enough money in the month to pay for new food.
I was afraid that my employer would be angry that I couldn’t come into work and I would be reprimanded.
I wanted to watch TV and to use my cell phone so that I could escape my fear.
I didn’t want to face my feelings, I wanted to escape them.

We all do this in all kind of ways:
Screens, phones, video games.
We escape our anxiety in alcohol and weed, or food
We run from complex relationship and sexuality in porn and fantasy.
We escape our feelings by talking all the time or not talking at all…
we do all sorts of things to numb ourselves to the wilderness…

That is why during this Lenten season many of us take time to put down those distractions.
We “give up” sweets.
We fast from facebook.
We turn off “HGTV”
We say no to beer. 

And in doing so I hope that we give our feelings a chance to rise up within us and be present.
The challenge though, like Jesus, is not just to say…”No satan get away…”
That is one thing.
The deeper challenge is to believe that we are beloved.
That we, like Adam and Eve, and Jesus are made by God to be who we are.
We are carved out of dirt and one another and we are beloved.

God chooses me – and calls me Beloved.
God chooses you- and calls you beloved.

In our wilderness, for each of us have a different ones,
We are beloved.
In the wilderness of politics, and racism,
We are beloved.

In the wilderness of grief and passivity.
We are beloved.

In all the wilderness.
In all of Life’s complicated feelings.

We. You.   Are beloved.


  1. Beautiful words, Rachel and true, too. Love you!


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