First Sunday in Lent - March 6, 2022
By Rev. Dr. Jaye Johnson,
Director of Congregational Excellence
If you are like me, certain movie lines stick with you:
But by far, the famous line that often comes to my mind is, "I'll be back!" That catchphrase was made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1984 sci-fi film The Terminator. As you may recall, The Terminator is a cyborg from the future who comes back in time to stop the people who will eventually give birth to the resistance leader in the future.
When The Terminator says that famous line, he is refused entry to the police station where his target is held. He surveys the front counter, then tells the desk sergeant: "I'll be back" Moments later, he crashes a car into the front of the police station, destroying the counter and everything keeping him from his goal. From that moment on, that phrase took on a new meaning. "I'll be back" meant that not only would one return, but they would return with a vengeance, with determination, redoubling efforts, it meant giving up was not an option.
In today's gospel reading from Luke 4:1-13, the "The Tormentor" (see what I did there) may not be wearing oversize sunglasses, but he will be back! The devil tempts Jesus in the wilderness not one time, not two times, but three times. Jesus rebuffs each with scripture, and each time the devil essentially says, "I'll be back," and he cranks up the intensity of the temptation until "the devil had finished every test, and he departed from him until an opportune time."
It would be terrifying for the devil to tempt us as boldly as he did Jesus, but in some ways, at least if the temptation was upfront and in the open, we might have a shot and call on Jesus to save us. However, our temptations are seldom as dramatic, insistent, or obvious as they were for Jesus, but they are just as dangerous.
The words of C.S. Lewis, written in Mere Christianity in 1952, come to mind. "The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting; the pleasures of power, of hatred…That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither. "
I know I am tempted to see other people as objects rather than people made in the image of God. When I care deeply about something, I am tempted to use my power to force others to agree with me, which seldom works, by the way. I do these things far more frequently than I would like to admit. Most of the time, I do so without realizing what I am doing at least at the moment. However, when the-I'll-be-back-nothing-will-stop-me attitude kicks in, I confess to knowing exactly what I am doing. This Lent, I am asking Jesus to show me a better way. What about you?
Prayer: Open our eyes that we may see the glimpses of truth you have for us. Show us what we need to see within ourselves that we might live into and come to embrace who we are - beloved children of God. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.