Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 – Lead us not into temptation – Sermon on the Lord’s Prayer

James 1:13-16
No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved.

For those of you who have been here each week, you may be getting tired of this quick review, but for those of you who haven’t been here each week, we have been walking through the Lord’s Prayer and trying to deepen its meaning for us and for our lives.

We have talked about how God is like a loving parent to us. We talked about how we pray that God’s kingdom and God’s will, and no one else’s, would be done and would come to earth. And what is God’s will? That love and justice for all prevails throughout the world. And that is our work together – bringing about love and justice in our lives and community. One way of putting this is that we are called to help bring heaven to earth.

We pray that everyone would receive daily bread – their basic needs for life. And we pray that God will continue to be forgiving with us, so that we can be forgiving toward others.

And finally, this is a prayer that we pray not only on our behalf, but on the behalf of others. Our Father. Give us our daily bread. Forgive us. And finally, tonight – lead us not into temptation.

Not only do we pray that we are not tempted, but we pray that others are not tempted either. Because if others are tempted to do something against God’s will, that could end up hurting the whole group. And as I say this I realize that maybe there are times when we can be the source of temptation. And so when we pray against temptation, maybe in some ways we are even praying against ourselves – that we wouldn’t do things that tempt others. It makes me think of peer pressure. C’mon, everyone’s doing it.

So, what tempts people? What are the temptations of life? There are the small ones, right? Ice cream. Chocolate.

But what are the big temptations in life? What are the things that really whisper in our ears and lure us to do things we do not want to do?

Money. Power. Fame. I also think we are tempted to do things because we think it means we will finally be loved. Or we will finally belong.

When we pray this petition, we are praying that those things would have no power over us, and no power over anyone, so as to lead us to do things that we will later regret.

But the phrasing is problematic. Lord, lead us not into temptation. And it begs the question, does God lead us into temptation? Is God partially responsible if you give in to temptation? You know, it’s like if a friend is trying to stop drinking, others will often not drink around them because they wouldn’t want to tempt them. But does God lead us into temptation? Is God testing us when we feel tempted?

Good question. Scripture isn’t entirely clear on that. This prayer seems to say so, but the newer translation of this prayer implies otherwise. The newer version says save us from the time of trial. Implying that God is not the one who tempts, but the one who saves. Plus, our Scripture from James said, “No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it.”

So Scripture leaves that question open a bit. But whatever it is, we pray that God would protect us from it. And if we trust God to be a loving parent, I would hope that God isn’t the one tempting us, but rather is the one forgiving us when we give in.

Now, I couldn’t help but feel slightly on the spot tonight when I realized that we would be talking about temptation. One of the things many of you have said is congratulations on this promotion. Or it must be a bigger church.

And it raises the question – was I tempted into this new calling? Was I seeking those things we mentioned – more money, power, or fame? Something bigger and better?

You know, I hope not. And I trust that I wasn’t. I trust that it is not a temptation, but that it really is a calling from God. Our former Bishop, Harold Usgaard, said whenever you take a new call, be honest with your people on why you are taking it. So, here is my truth: I don’t view it as a promotion. I’m not getting paid more. I’m not stepping up to a more powerful position in the church.

So why the change then? On the one hand, I think this church has been looking for a long time for a pastor with the gifts that I have to offer. And it also offers me the opportunity to learn some new skills under the leadership of a senior pastor.

On the other hand, I don’t know that I am build for solo ministry. These past almost four years have been such a blessing in my life. As I said in my letter, you have helped me learn what it means to be a pastor. And you have done that with grace and patience and understanding. You have forever changed for the better the way I view and do ministry. I have fallen in love with you. I have fallen in love with the gift that rural churches and a rural community has to offer.

And the past four years have been really hard at times. Not because of you, but because of the nature of solo ministry and working on your own. Some pastors thrive and get energy working on there own, and I am just not certain I am one of them.

And so maybe it is time for my gifts to be put to work in a new setting. And maybe it is time for you to benefit from the gifts of another pastor that I cannot offer you. And maybe it is time that another pastor get to benefit from all of the gifts you have to offer. And whoever that next person is – they are in for a real treat. And I hope you know that.

We will all face temptations in our life that, in both big and little ways, will lead us away from the way of God. May we all be faithful in listening for God’s voice in our life, and praying for protection from those other voices. And when the times comes that we will inevitably fail and give in, may we put our trust in the God who is our father and mother, offering us all grace and forgiveness in return. Amen.

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