Deuteronomy 26:1-11 (page 167 in your pew Bible);
Romans 10:8-13 (page 946 in your pew Bible);
Luke 4:1-13 (page 859 in your pew Bible)
We started with listening to Deuteronomy from the Old Testament.
Now within that piece from verse 5 to 9 we have what has been called a mini creed which recalls how God has acted in the past and so is a guide to God’s character.
Now what that recalled memory of how God has acted in their history reveals God to be a liberator from oppression. It creates Hope, because if God has acted before there is the certain expectation that he will continue to liberate, to set free because that is his revealed character.
It reveals that God is not an absentee landlord. He exists but never gets involved. It reveals a God who is involved and active in human lives.
Because creeds are not to remain things in the mind – they are there to govern actions and that goes for the Nicene creed, the Apostle’s creed or any of the other creedal statements taken from the Bible that we have been using lately. They are living and active and are said to evoke a response, not just to enforce unity.
God is a liberator from oppression and Jesus himself as God’s agent on earth is to be seen also in this light. Jesus liberates and sets free.
Now in Paul’s statement of faith in Romans we have just such a liberator, a saviour. Jesus was living active and involved and determined to set us free from the fear of suffering and death, that most basic of human fears.
But more than that, to be a constant companion on our journey through this life and on into the next one. So he sets us free from loneliness and fear.
In verse 12 Paul says “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”. There are no exceptions. This is good news – Good news indeed.
For as Deuteronomy says, God is a liberator, a saviour. But saving faith has consequences. It is our sole responsibility to respond and our response can be seen when our lives are affected and changed. It is not just a matter for the mind but a matter for the heart.
You can see this clearly in what Paul writes. “Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your hear that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (9 – 10)
So let us turn to Jesus as every sermon should, implicitly if not explicitly, and be there right at the start of his public three year ministry in Luke’s gospel.
Jesus is now about thirty years old and has just had a tremendous experience of the Holy Spirit at his baptism. You can read that on the same page (859) at chapter 3 verse 22.
Our reading today commences “And Jesus full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for 40 days,”
You might remember that when I did the last family service I asked questions like “who was with Simeon and Anna or who guided them? The same here. Look at the text. What or who was Jesus full of?
Who led him in the wilderness? The Holy Spirit.
This befits a man who as John says in 3:16 will “baptise in the Holy Spirit”
God himself through his spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, not the devil
Three times Jesus is tempted by the devil to seize and use power for his own benefit and three times Jesus refuses and does so by quoting scripture. All three quotes which refute the devil (satan – the tempter or accuser) are from the same book – Deuteronomy which of course was the book our first reading this morning was taken from.
In doing so, Jesus validates Holy Scripture and gives it his seal of approval and shows that the Bible has authority as God’s unique revelation to mankind
It is also a lesson to us that in order for the Bible to do us any good we need to read it regularly, internalise it. If we can memorise certain parts of it that we find particularly helpful then so much the better. That’s what Jesus did.
But mainly, what Luke wants to convey is that Jesus is going to succeed where Adam failed on behalf of the entire human race – indeed for all creation. Where Adam failed and was tempted Jesus will stand firm and be trusted to be a true liberator. As Paul said;
“everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.
So although entirely Christ centred and written to underline the role of Jesus as a righteous and uncorruptable saviour we can draw the most important lesson for ourselves.
When the Spirit works within us, it is wonderful but it is not necessarily a comfortable ride.
The Spirit will also ask serious questions of us. This is what Lent is about. He will seek out all those dark hidden corners of our soul, all our unforgiveness, all our fear and hatreds, and malevolent thoughts and impulses and invite us, with his help to deal with them. Certainly not comfortable, but necessary and true and done in Love.