Main readings: Deuteronomy 26.1-11, Ps 91.1-2, 9-16, Romans 10.4-13, Luke 4.1-15
Supplementary readings: Ps 103, Galatians 3.23-28, Genesis 37.12-28, Ps 119.105-112, Luke 22.1-38
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil…When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.” (Luke 4: 1-2a, 13)
In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, set in the Deep South and written during the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, an African American man is wrongly accused of raping a white woman. Despite threats to his own life, prestigious white attorney Atticus Finch chooses, on principle, to defend the falsely accused man, whom the bigoted towns people would rather lynch than have tried in court. Atticus’ character left a hard, yet unforgettable, lesson in standing up for justice when being put to the test.
‘Temptation’, ‘testing’ or ‘trial’? Scholars have difficulty with the Greek translation of peirasmos. Jesus, who was in every way as tempted as we are, endured a genuine trial in the wilderness.
For Jesus, as for us, the struggle to choose in a given situation is authentically human. Choices are often ambiguous – woven into the fabric of our daily lives. As we struggle to make choices, it can be tempting to ‘go with the flow’, rather than make choices that reflect Kingdom values.
The challenge is to make our daily trials stepping stones towards more faithful discipleship, rather than stumbling blocks. ‘Faith-full’ choices are aided by the disciplines of prayer, worship and study of the scriptures, but also through honing our skills of responsible decision making, and being encouraged by what Bishop Barbara Harris once said: “The power behind you is greater than the task before you”.
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