Sermon podcast: Lent 127 Feb 2017 By Nikki Groarke
Nikki Groarke, Archdeacon of Dudley
Press the play button to listen to the recording or click on the Download link to download a .mp3 file to your computer.
We’re on a journey – one travelled many times before, but a journey with the potential to change us, if we let ourselves live in it, savour it, and don’t try to take short cuts. The Christian journey through Lent.
Of course, we are Easter people – we live in the light of the resurrection – it’s tempting to take a short cut to Easter Day, the rejoicing bit is easier. But Christians throughout the ages have chosen to journey through Lent and Holy Week because a season of contemplation, denial, fasting and focus can serve to deepen and enliven our faith. As we die to self, take up our cross, and follow Jesus on this journey to his cross, we then have an opportunity to be truly raised to new life in all its fullness on Easter day.
Our gospel reading today is about the temptations of Jesus. The only witness for the temptations was Jesus himself. He must have known his disciples would have similar times of trial – so he shares this story with them that they might know his presence with them in the midst of it being hard, his example and his leading.
And the first temptation was about hunger, meeting an urgent physical need after a season of fasting. Reflecting on it may prompt some of us to think about fasting during lent – perhaps not for the whole of it – 40 days is a long time, but maybe for one day a week, in order to help us think about our deepest desires.
Do you ever feel hungry for more of God? Maybe in our heads we know that there is more of a relationship with God for us to press into, but we don’t feel that desperate hunger that we see in the psalmists, or observe in others. John Piper, in the introduction to his book A Hunger for God, says this:
“If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great. God did not create you for this. There is an appetite for God. And it can be awakened. I invite you to turn from the dulling effects of food and the dangers of idolatry and to say with some simple fast: ‘This much, O God, I want you.’”
We don’t know what it is to feel hungry, really hungry. Our souls are stuffed with small things, and the trouble is, many of the small things that satisfy us are God’s gifts to us – they are good things. But the good things leave no room for the great. Our lives just become too full, full of the gifts rather than the giver. God’s desire for us is fullness of life, but he wants us to find that fullness in him alone
And of course this is what the temptations Jesus faced during his 40 day fast were all about – temptations to find meaning, fulfilment, protection, sustenance in from things other than his heavenly father. We are always caused to reflect on Jesus wilderness fast at the beginning of Lent. He was tempted, but resisted, and kept his focus on worshipping God alone.
Take a moment to think about how your appetites dictate the shape of your life, and where they direct you. What do you crave? What are you looking for or dreaming of? . Our hunger for God will only increase if we have empty places within us. Fasting is, in effect, an offering of emptiness to show where fullness can be found. .
God created us hungry and thirsty, not so we would become food addicts, our lives dominated by finding our next meal, but so that we would know what hunger and thirst feels like.
Jesus is the only one that can ever fully satisfy our needs and as we recognise that the deepest hunger, the deepest thirst is not for food or things or pleasure, but for him, the bread of life, only then will we begin to feel that hunger satisfied. Jesus says that those who come to him and believe in him will never be hungry or thirsty. Let’s pray that this year, our Lenten fasting, in whatever form it takes, will create hungry space for more of God.
- 1.How might we create some hungry space during Lent?
- 2.What else fills our lives, taking the place of God, that we might usefully fast from? Perhaps a social media or TV fast might create space to pray.
- 3.When have you known God’s help in resisting temptation? Which Bible verse have been useful for you to remember for such times?