Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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Lent - 2/25/07

Please allow me to introduce myself,
I’m a man of wealth and taste.
I've been around for long, long years,
Stole many a man’s soul and faith.
Pleased to meet you,
Hope you guess my name.

Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones wrote those words about me. He called the song "Sympathy for the Devil," But I don't want your sympathy, I don't need your sympathy. I'm doing very well, thank you. And like he said, I have stolen many a man’s soul and faith, man’s and woman’s too, none of your are exempt. But the one soul and faith I wanted the most, that of Jesus of Nazareth, I never got. I wanted him, bad, and I thought I could do it. Because if I could have gotten him, I would have had all of you too, and that's what I really wanted.

I knew it wouldn't be easy, not as easy as it was way back in the garden with the man and the woman, Adam and Eve you call them, you know the story. That was so easy it was pathetic. It almost made me feel bad! Those two beautiful human beings, a beautiful place to live, everything they could possibly want. And they could live forever in peace and happiness if only they could be content with being human and allowing God to be God. But they were just like every other human being that has come along, including you. You all want to be like God! You all want to think you can do without God.

So it wasn't hard when I got the woman alone, and it could have been the man lest any of you men point fingers. It just happened that that was my first opportunity and I innocently asked, "Did God say you shouldn't eat from that tree in the middle of the garden?"

And she said, "That's right.   We can eat from every tree and plant except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If we do, God says we'll die."

"No you won't," I said. "If you eat from that tree, you know what will happen? You'll be like God! You'll know as much as God and that's what he's afraid of. He likes things the way they are!"

So easy. That's all it took. I just watched as pretty soon she went over and took a piece of fruit from that tree and gave some to her poor unsuspecting husband. I watched with a smile as their lives became much more difficult, even as murder and bloodshed soon came into the world. It was almost too easy.

You might have thought that God would have given up on humanity at that point, pathetic lot that you are. But he didn't. For some reason, don't ask me why, he loves you! I thought at times he was coming to his senses. There was the time of the flood. There were times of slavery and exile. But every time, he winds up giving another chance. It doesn't seem to matter how much or how badly you mess things up.

But I guess he wanted to seal the deal once and for all, to make you his children, forever. And that's where Jesus comes in. I probably knew before anyone who he was. I knew that all the divine power of God was wrapped up in this one person. I might have known it before he did!   I knew he was the Messiah as the Jews called it, the Son of God.

But I also knew that if just once I could get him to use his power for his own good and his own needs, if just once I could get him to stray from the path God had set for him, if just once I could get him to do my bidding, he couldn't be the Messiah. He couldn't be who God wanted him to be! I would have him, and if I had him, I'd have you too.

My best shot came during the time he been led by the Spirit into the wilderness for some kind of 40 day spiritual retreat. If only you could have seen him then. It was pretty awful, out there in the desert, shivering with cold at night, being scorched by the sun during the day. His lips were cracked and bleeding, his tongue swollen, parched by thirst. He was sitting against a large rock, his bony knees drawn up to his emaciated chest, his head resting on his knees. He really wasn't much more than a skeleton at that point. The pain in his stomach where food should have been was excruciating.

That's when I came to him with all my charm. I came to him like a cool, refreshing breeze, like a time in the shade. And I said to him, "You've done pretty well out here. You must be passing the test. But you've got to be hungry. You've got to eat sometime. This can't go on forever. So have something to eat. Look at all these stones. If you are the Son of God, you can change these stones into bread and eat. You'll feel better. The pain in your stomach will go away. You'll get your strength back. Go ahead. Eat.

He looked up at me, his eyes glazed and said, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone.'"

So it wouldn't be easy, but 1 still had some tricks up my sleeve. In a moment, a gust of wind, a flash of light and a crash of thunder I showed him all the kingdoms of the world, the mountains, the valleys, the streams and rivers, the valleys and meadows, the seas and oceans, the great cities and I said, "You can have all this! It's mine to give to whoever I want. You can have rule and authority over all this if you will just worship me. What could be easier?"

This time he hardly looked at me but said, "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.'"

I still wasn't through. If he wanted to quote scripture I could do that too. I knew it as well as he did. So in another gust of wind, flash of light and crash of thunder we were transported to the pinnacle of the temple in the great city of Jerusalem. It was the highest point in the city.   "It's pretty spectacular isn't it?" I said. "But we are up pretty high. It's a long way down. But if you are the Son of God, you could take a dive off of here and be perfectly safe, because it is written, 'He will command his angels to protect you. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone."

I thought that was pretty good, but in a surprising strong voice, Jesus responded, "It is said, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test."

Then the scene changed. I was alone. Jesus was gone. Back in the desert, leaning against that rock, hungry and weak.

If you think I was done, I wasn't. I didn't give up. I was there pretty much every step of the way with Jesus, especially as he came closer to the end. I was there when he rode into Jerusalem with people waving palms and shouting Hosanna! I was praising him myself, cheering him on, hoping he'd like this glory and the power it promised. I was there in the garden of Gethsemane when he begged God not to put him through the rest of it. I was whispering in his ear telling him to just slip away, go back to Galilee where they'll leave you alone. I was there when they put him on trial telling him to just go along with it. Say what they want you to say and they'll let you go. I was there when he was on the cross, trying one final time to get him to curse and deny the God who was putting him through this.

But I couldn't get him. He died the death you deserve, so that when you are baptized in his name, you die too. But you are also raised to new live, eternal life, just like he was. And there is nothing, nothing I can do about that.

Don't get me wrong. I'm still around. I still get things done. Throughout history I've made an impact with suffering and war and hatred, human being committing atrocities against each other. And I'm still around for each of you, tempting you just like I tempted Jesus. Tempting you with money and material possessions, trying to get you to put them ahead of God. I appeal to your ego telling you how great you are, how you can do just fine without God. I tempt you will all kinds of things to do on Sunday mornings, things much more fun than going to church and praising God.

I'm good at it, and I get every one of you at one time or anther. But every time you return to God, in prayer, when you worship, when you read those scriptures Jesus liked to quote, when you receive the bread and wine up there on the altar, every time you go back, God welcomes you with open arms because of what Jesus did for you. He loves you, and even I can't change that.

I said before that I don't need your sympathy, but maybe I do. Because no matter what I do, in the end, I can't win. I'll have my moments, but I can't win. I couldn't get to Jesus, so I can't get to you. You belong to God.

Pleased to meet you.
Hope you guessed my name.    

 
 

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640
contact@bethanyishpeming.org

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor
pastor@bethanyishpeming.org

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“Whoever
welcomes
one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
but the
one who
sent me.”
 
 

 

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