Sermon – March 1, 2020 – First Sunday in Lent



Jesus led into the wilderness by the spirit,

Despite not eating for 40 days , It all seems too neat & tidy,

like he was part of a Boy Scouts for Men program. Immediately following your baptism, Jesus you will be accompanied to the Wilderness by the Spirit, where your faithfulness to God will be put to the test by the Devil, the one we love to hate, for 40 days & 39 nights.

These temptations are so nicely arranged & it seems like Jesus is fairly clear about who he is talking to – the devil.

  • Temptations in my life are just not so clear.
  • It feels more reasonable desire for control in response to fear, doubt, anger, despair, exhaustion, loneliness.

I understand Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness to be one of clarification of who he is in relation to God…

And I think we each know & experience a different temptation

In regards to who we are in relation to God


On the one side of the coin of temptation who believe they do all the work

  • Their faith is one of great effort, tremendous responsibility, strength, confidence, and productivity. They make stuff happen.
  • The temptation here is to believe that God is super-duper pleased with you and has kind of left you in charge to do all the things.
  • And you’ve got it all under control.


The other side of the coin are those who believe they can do nothing of their own – they are powerless, flawed, and weak.

  • Their faith is one of total submission to God and trust that God will fix it. God will save. God will provide. God will cure. God will do everything.
  • Or not. So, when bad things happen…it is all God’s will.
  • When Good things happen it is all God’s will.

The temptation is to believe that there is no way to effect change, assert responsibility. All you can do is PRAY for God’s will to be in your favor.

Think about learning to swim.

Has anyone learned how to swim as an adult?

The way I have come to understand my relationship to God

is through learning how to swim.

It is really scary to learn how to swim as a grown adult

  • In order to swim you have to take your foot off the bottom of the pool
  • In order to swim – have to TRUST that the water is going to hold you up


But here is the 2 sided coin of temptation in relationship to floating.


The one side does not really believe that the water is going to hold them up

Or at least not sufficiently.

  • So they use all their might & muscle to sort of propel themselves

on TOP Of the water

– doing all they can to hold themselves up.


The other side, of course, hopes & expects the water to just hold them

Up in a secure embrace while they lie there stiff or limp


Both sides of this coin of course will not float well &

Not have the greatest experience in water


Somewhere in the middle is the truth.

  • The water holds you up – you don’t hold yourself up
  • As soon as you try by your own strength & effort, you will sink.
  • Your effort & muscles will sink you.


But, you have to do something. You do your work to do.

  • The water holds you up – but you need to move your arms & legs a little.
  • The water holds you up – but you need to trust it and take your foot off the bottom of pool for it to work all
  • The water holds you up – but it isn’t going to be like laying back in a recliner
  • You need to keep calmly moving, breathing, working in relationship

With the water, not to control it or submit to it.


****I have preached my theory of temptation & swimming for years. Without fail someone will come up to me afterwards and report how they factually and scientifically can not float. Because they have no body fat. Or too much body fat.

Or they have tendonitis. Or maybe because they have a hip replacement.


To those of you who have already started to prepare your rebuttal to me;

  1. It’s a metaphor.
  2. It’s a metaphor for our life of faith in relationship to God.
  3. Carrying this metaphor out a bit – what is our expectation of floating or swimming or simply being held up by water to feel like?
    • Do we expect it to be totally relaxing like with a big raft in a lake?
    • Do we expect it to be easier?
      • If you have ever had to tread water for a minute, you know that it is exhausting.


I’m not suggesting in any way that you won’t feel vulnerable, panicked or out of control & that all you want to do is put your feet on the bottom.


  • Although it might sound like a nightmare, it is easier to swim

In deep water, where you can’t touch the bottom

There’s more water holding you up. Less you holding you up.

Because when we can easily touch the bottom & gain some control of the situation, we just will.


But when you don’t know where the bottom is

& you surely aren’t going to go looking for it.

You need to figure out how to be in relationship with the water that is surrounding you.

How to trust it.

Figure out What is your work to do & what is not your work to do?


Learning how to swim or trust God when you can’t see the bottom

  • Is when you find out that it is cancer.

You learn to trust God to lean into hope, comfort, and healing.

  • And you get about the work that is yours to do of treating it.



Learning how to swim or trust God in the deep end

Is the days after divorce, getting sober, facing the real heartache

  • God holds you up by the life-sustaining waters of grace, hope, resurrection, and reconciliation
  • And you do the hard work of staying present and not running away from it all, moment by moment.


Maybe some of you feel like your swimming in the deep end as a church

Now that you are without a pastor.

  • Some of you might be tempted to believe that it is all dependent on you and your tremendous effort, sacrifice, and strain.
  • While others are tempted to believe that what you do doesn’t make a difference, that you are not capable, willing, or prepared to do this work. And maybe It’s totally out of your hands and there is nothing you can do.

And of course none of those are completely true, but they are very tempting to believe in.


Maybe how you show up as individuals & as a community of faith,

in relationship to God in the deep end of transition

Is your practice of Lent.


How are you showing up in this community of faith in this time that is just inherently vulnerable, exhausting & there is no bottom to put your feet down and give up?