The Event #3
2nd Sunday of Lent
Have you heard? Marshmallows are dangerous for children? At least according to a couple of parents who appeared on Oprah. A twelve year old girl choking to death on a marshmallow seems impossible. Choking while playing a game at school almost makes it ridiculous. But that’s what happened to their daughter. The parents are determined to warn as many adults and children as possible of the dangers of playing “Chubby Bunny.”
Chubby Bunny is a “game” wherein kids stuff as many marshmallows as possible into their mouths as they say Chubby Bunny. They are not allowed to swallow. The game ends when the child can no longer stuff any more marshmallows into their mouth without gagging or saying Chubby Bunny.
Who would have thought we needed to warn our children about such a game as Chubby Bunny? Tempting, Yes! Dangerous? No!
The danger with Chubby Bunny, experts on the show said, is that the marshmallow melts as it warms in the mouth. The melting marshmallow begins to seep down the throat covering the airway until it seals it off and there is no way to extract the marshmallow. The solution is simple. Don’t play Chubby Bunny.
We can say that, we can tell our children not to play Chubby bunny or we can even tell not to eat marshmallows. But the temptation to disobey is there all the time. Sometimes, it seems we just can’t control ourselves when we’re faced with Temptation. Like the little girl in the Marshmallow test, we want what we want and we want it now. (1)
Before we go on, I have a challenge for you. You can eat your marshmallow now, or wait until the end of the service and I’ll give you another one. Temptation. That’s what we’re going to explore today.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes life JUST seems to be one big test, one Super-sized Temptation. And in the midst of that test and temptation, sometimes, when we succumb to temptation, we get away with it. Sometimes we don’t suffer any immediate consequences. When that happens there’s a part of us that shouts with joy.
And that’s when the trouble begins because we start to get cocky. And the minute we think we’ve got it made, well WATCH THIS . . .
Most of the time, we’re just like that mouse. Every time we succumb to temptation we get squashed. Just when we think we’ve gotten away with it, boom, down comes the broom and all that trash we thought was safely swept under the carpet is suddenly exposed.
Today is the Second Sunday in Lent. In the United Methodist Church, Lent is that time when we focus on The Passion of Christ. Lent is the 40 days before Easter (not counting Sundays because they are little Easters in and of themselves). The 40 days correspond to the 40 days of testing and temptation which Jesus went through in the Judean wilderness before He began his full time earthly ministry.
Let’s look at one of the passages which describes those days: Luke 4:1-13
 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. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.
 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”  Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’ “
 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.
 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please.
 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”
 Jesus answered him, ‘It is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’ “
 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here,
 for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you,’
‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ “
 Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ “
 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
One of the things Scripture teaches us is that if life IS one big test, one Super-sized Temptation. But we have been given the strength to resist Tempation because Jesus was tested and tempted just like you and me and did not succumb. Knowing that, there are two things I want to say today. JESUS GIVES AND JESUS FORGIVES.
I. JESUS GIVES:
A. FIRST JESUS GIVES: I’m not going to go into a whole lot of detail about the Temptations they are as simple and as complex as we want to make them.
The first was physical: Jesus was tempted to turn the stones to bread, obviously playing on his physical need for food after having fasted for 40 days.
The second was political and spiritual: Jesus was tempted to short circuit the process, and avoid the pain and agony of the cross and slide right into the throne of the world. And all He had to do was change political and spiritual allegiance and bow down to Satan.
And the final temptation was theatrical: it was the temptation to force God’s hand by putting on a show. It was the temptation that followed Jesus in every aspect of His ministry. That’s why He didn’t perform more miracles or do more signs and wonders during His ministry. He didn’t want the message to be overshadowed by Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show. It wasn’t a show! Jesus invites us into a relationship. A relationship in which we can experience the love of God not view it like a movie.
B. The short recap of Jesus’ temptations is a reminder that Jesus faced every temptation you and I face every day. We face physical, political and theatrical temptations in all that we do. We are constantly tempted to think of our physical needs and wants first. We constantly tempted to transfer allegiance and take the easy route.
Sometimes we’re tempted to think that our kids will learn everything they need to know about faith in Sunday School.
One Sunday after church, Rev. Don Maddox noticed his five-year-old son writing something in his take-home Sunday School paper. While writing, the boy asked, “Dad, how do you spell God?”
Well, Dad was pleased that the boy was still thinking about his Sunday School lesson, so and spelled God for him. The boy wrote “G-O-D” and then asked, “Dad, how do you spell ‘Zilla’?” (2)
We’re tempted to bring our kids to Sunday School and leave their spiritual formation to the Sunday School teachers when they learn best by our example. If you talk about Sunday School and Worship together and if you attend Sunday School and Worship with your children, it shows how important faith is to you. If you drop them off and don’t attend, then they KNOW how important faith is to you. You’ve shown them by example.
C. Sometimes we’re tempted to believe that we know all the answers. That we have everyone else completely figured out, and they won’t change. A physician tells the story of how she and her four year old daughter were on the way to preschool. The doctor had left her stethoscope on the seat of the car and her daughter had picked it up, stuck it in her ears and started playing with it. The doctor thought to herself, “Wow, my daughter wants to follow in my footsteps and become a doctor, too.”
And then her daughter spoke into stethoscope. “Welcome to McDonald’s. May I take your order.” (3)
We don’t know all the answers but sometimes we’re tempted to believe that we do. And that can get in the way of our relationship with God and with others.
D. Sometimes we’re tempted to let our priorities get out of whack. Our priorities should be God, Family and Self, in that order.
A certain man’s career kept requiring him to travel more and more. After a long trip away from home, his wife and kid’s met him at the airport. On the way home, Dad asked his son what he thought he wanted to be when he grew up. And without hesitation, the boy answered, “A pilot.”
Dad asked, “Why do you want to be a pilot.”
The boy answered, “So I can spend more time with you.” (4)
You know, we can trick ourselves into thinking that all the time we spend on the job is for the family. Don’t get me wrong, don’t misunderstand, I know that sometimes it is. Longer hours allow us to give our family more of what they want. But giving them more of what they NEED is even more important. Our kids won’t look back and say with remorse that they didn’t have enough stuff, they didn’t get all the things that money could buy. But believe me, they WILL look back and say “Mom or Dad was always there when I needed them.” Or “Mom or Dad was Never there.”
E. Sometimes we’re tempted to think that our actions don’t really matter. But they do.
Two gas company servicemen, a senior training supervisor and a young trainee, were out checking gas meters in a subdivision. They parked their truck at one end of the street and then worked their way to the other end, checking meters along the way. At the last house, a woman was looking out her kitchen window, watching the two men as they checked her gas meter.
As they finished checking the meters, the senior supervisor challenged the young trainee to a race back to the truck, just to show the younger guy what kind of shape he was in. So off they took. As they came running up to the truck, they realized the lady from the last house was huffing and puffing right behind them. They asked her what was wrong. And gasping for breath, she replied, “Well, when I see two gas men running as hard as you two were, I figure I’d better run, too!” (5)
You may not think of yourself as a leader. You may not think of yourself as important. But you are. You are somebody’s role model. You are somebody’s hero. There are others: children, youth, your spouse, family, friends, coworkers and the like, who are watching you. They look up to you and will follow in your footsteps. What you do and how you live your life is very important.
F. I’ve used lots of humor to talk about a very serious subject. Temptation. We know there are a jillion kinds of temptation. I haven’t even begun to list all the temptations we face. But you see, the point is, we’re all tempted in various ways. We don’t have to be driven into the wilderness like Jesus to be tempted. Everyday life is filled with temptations. Some of them are small and some are large. But they’re all temptations. And each one of them can lead us from the path Christ Jesus has set before us.
So, how do we face temptation? What do we do when we’re tempted? And how do we say “NO” to temptation? Jesus gives us the tools to do that. He gives us the power to say “No,” to temptation and “Yes” to faith because He has experienced every temptation that we have. Hebrews 4:15-16 tell us: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
And Hebrews 2:18 says; “Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”
JESUS GIVES: Jesus gives us strength and help in time of need.” And all we have to do is “approach the throne of grace with boldness.”
II. JESUS FORGIVES:
A. JESUS GIVES, AND JESUS FORGIVES. And that’s the Good News because most of us are just like the mouse in the short clip, we succumb to temptation. Unfortunately for us, unlike the mouse and cheese, temptation usually comes our way in little doses so we tend to nibble ourselves lost like a sheep gone astray.
But the Good News is that JESUS FORGIVES. Romans 10:13 “For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And believe it or not, sometimes our attempts to be righteous can become unrighteous.
B. How many of you have seen the movie “Chocolat?” It’s one of my favorite Lenten movies. It begins with these words: “Once upon a time there was a quiet little village in the French countryside, whose people believed in tranquility. If you lived in this village, you understood what was expected of you. You knew your place in the scheme of things. And if you happened to forget, someone would help remind you. In this village, if you saw something you weren’t supposed to see, you learned to look the other way. If by chance your hopes had been disappointed, you learned never to ask for more. So, through good times and bad, famine and heat, the villagers held fast to their traditions, until one winter day a sly wind blew in from the North.”
Chocolat is a movie told almost in a fairy tale kind of format. It has that feel and quality about it. It begins on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. The movie is about Lent, temptation, self-denial, self-deception, self-control, rebirth, redemption, forgiveness and second chances.
The central characters are the Mayor, the Compte de Reynaud who oversees nearly every aspect of the village. And Vianne a new comer, that sly wind who blew in from the North, who opens a Chocolate shop, a place of indulgence, during Lent, the season of sacrifice and self denial. The Mayor is a rigorously faithful man who really cares about his village. There is only one overindulgence in his life, and that’s his self-denial. He is miserable. And that has effected the whole community and every and every relationship.
The Mayor has watched as villager after villager has entered the Chocolate shop. Finally, on Easter Eve, can’t stand it any longer, he breaks into shop, attacks the display, winds up gorging himself on the choclate & passes out in a sugar coma riddled wth remorse. He’s found next morning by Priest & shop owner, who forgives him . . . Watch.
They felt lighter, less wieghed down by the weight of sin. Their burden was lightened, the weight of temptation was lifted. The Compte fell from Grace but in so doing realized his own humanness and need for forgiveness. He was transformed and so was the whole village, all because JESUS FORGIVES.
Life is often like the Marshmallow Test. We are given opportunities to maintain self-control; to say “No” to ourselves and “Yes” to God. When we do, we find forgiveness and the strength to be the people God calls us to be.
I’d like you to take a moment to think about those Marshmallow Tests in your life, those areas and times when you’ve been in the wilderness, when you’ve been tested either through failure or when you’ve been tested and tempted and overcome that temptation.
Think about that temptation in your life and know if you are still struggling, Christ Jesus will help. You can give thanks that He was tempted and yet didn’t sin. And if you rely on Him, He will give you the same strength.
OK. How did you do?
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
2. Parables, Etc. (Platteville, Colorado: Saratoga Press), March 2000
3. Parables, Etc. (Platteville, Colorado: Saratoga Press), March 2000
4. Parables, Etc. (Platteville, Colorado: Saratoga Press), March 2000
5. The Pastor’s Story File (Platteville, Colorado: Saratoga Press), March 2000
6. Grace Witwer Housholder, The Funny Kids Project, Kendallville, IN USA, http://www.funnykids.com (That story is from John’s mother, Dot Sims of Pensacola, Fla.)
Other References Consulted