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Utopia Through The Wilderness

March 9, 2019 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Verse: Luke 4:1

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
March 10, 2019
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Lent 1
Utopia Through The Wilderness (Luk 4:1)

O Lord God, you led your ancient people through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land. Guide the people of your church that, following our Savior, we may walk through the wilderness of this world toward the glory of the world to come; through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Collect For Lent 1: Series B)

What is the goal of humanity?

Is it the “world peace” Miss America always hopes for? Is it the Utopia that every con man from the greatest to least promises you? Only if you are gullible. Only if you are naïve. Only if you believe the “father of lies” who attacked Jesus in the wilderness with the boldest lies ever told!

But if today you are filled with the Holy Spirit like Jesus was, then you will recognize today’s Collect for the gem that it is. Then you will know that the road to Utopia winds through the wilderness: that it always has, and always will.

When the Lord liberated his Old Testament church from the clutches of the cruel and greedy Egyptians, and took them to the land he promised them, the “land flowing with milk and honey,” it was by way of the wilderness. He did not pick them up, and carry them on “beds of ease” from one to the other. But he did go with them, and he himself led them from death to life. From the depths of despair to the fullness of joy! May God so lead each of his children today!

In today’s Old Testament lesson we learn about the goal of those who had come through the wilderness, what it meant to live in the Promised Land, and how they were to worship in response.

Not only were they to joyfully and gratefully receive God’s blessing, but they were instructed to bring an offering to him. Ten percent of all that they received from his generous hands, and further to verbally acknowledge their receipt of God’s gift, and then to make formal confession of it.

We do the same today as Christians. By baptism we have been led out of the wilderness of sin and death; shame and disappointment; and brought into the good and blessed Land of the church that flows with the milk and honey of salvation!

We, too, bring offerings to our Lord. Not in the form of commodities as they did in the Old Testament, but in the form of currency that represents our labor in the modern age, which are the gifts that we receive from the hand of our God. We, too, worship and confess the true faith in the words of the church’s historic liturgy.

Like them we, too, acknowledge receipt of the “inexpressible gift of God,” the Body and Blood of Christ received in Holy Communion, and indeed every good gift with the verbal confession, “Amen!”

And so from ancient times God led his people to Utopia, to the Good Place of his Grace, by way of the wilderness.

Nor did the program change when Christ came into the world. And so today we see our Lord re-living the movements of the Old Testament church. Going from baptism (not in the Red Sea, but in the Jordan) to the wilderness to commune with God in the midst of a hostile environment. Not for 40 years, but by 40 days. As Israel was tempted, so the Lord, but with one huge difference! Whereas they failed miserably, Jesus succeeded valiantly! He resisted every one of the devil’s designer enticements with the insurmountable power of the Holy Spirit, and remained true Man, faithful to God.

No, he would not give in however intense the pressure, and the last line of today’s gospel is most interesting. “And when the devil had finished with every temptation he left him until a more opportune time.” (Luke 4:13)

That “time” was at the cross. Again the "old evil foe" was present, this time in the person of his “ministers” (for Satan, too, has a “clergy” that serve him) who urged Jesus, “Save yourself!” “If you are the Son of God come down from the cross.”

Jesus did not! But he stayed where he was; affixed to the tree; not by nails but by love; not by compulsion but by the joy that was set before him – our salvation – for which he endured the cross, and despised the shame.

Jesus did not care what happened to him, but only to us! And so “by his wounds we are healed.” By his blood we are cleansed. By his death, we attain new and eternal life. But it is, for now, life in the wilderness. Life in a world that is hostile to life, hostile to our God, and to his Christ.

Do you want Utopia? Of course you do, who does not?

But let it not be the stingy and vanishing utopia the devil offers us through the promises of his “high priests” today. Those wolves in sheep’s clothing. Those “deacons” of the Evil One who can appear as “angels of light.”

Indeed, beware of anyone who appears as an angel of light, for “salvation belongs to the Lord.” (As Scripture says, “Trust not in princes, they are but mortal.”)

Remember, the devil is the “father of lies” who supplies the “high priests” of cultural religion with buttery tongues! With “deep guile and great might” so that they can make every perversion, every form of ungodliness, appear to be good and glorious.

But you cannot turn stones of sin into bread! You will only break your teeth!

But Jesus can do all things! He changes death into life. Mourning into dancing. Bread and wine into his Body and Blood to nourish and strengthen you with God’s own might; so that you can do battle with the Evil One just like Jesus did!

Not by your own strength for then “soon were our loss effected.” But by his! For, as the hymns says, “… he’s by our side upon the plain, with his good gifts and Spirit. And take they our life, goods, fame, child, wife, though all these be gone, they yet have nothing won, the Kingdom ours remaineth.” Amen.