Monday, February 22, 2010

Ode to Chocolate - A Sermon


I think that I shall never see,

A sight so yummy as Hershey

And also I shall never eat

A food that ever tastes so sweet.

And yet, I’ll take what I can get,

As long as it is chocolate.

Hershey, Snickers, even Lindt:

They all are just as heaven-sent

And M&Ms? Both plain and peanut,

I’ll eat them all, I really mean it.

Chocolate, chocolate, it’s so good,

It tastes the way that all food should.

Which is the very painful reason,

I’ll give it up this holy season.

This Lent, though I may plead and beg,

I won’t even eat a Cadbury egg.

Going without this little sweet

Is harder for me than skipping meat

And Lent is meant to help us see

What is and is not necessary.

And in my life, what I need most

Is Father, Son and Holy Ghost

Which is to say that all we need

Is God, the Holy Trinity.

I hope you liked that. Because, as you can tell, I’m giving up chocolate for Lent.

1. Now, giving things up for Lent is not required, not a religious act of obligation – but the act of self-deprivation does have benefits. If nothing else, it lets you face temptation.

2. That reminds us how Jesus faced temptation during that 40 day period in the wilderness. Temptations, really.

3. First it was hunger – 40 days is a long time. You may ask why he fasted in the first place. Fasting – deprivation – has a way of focusing you on where you are right now. Focus on the hunger, and you forget everything else. Then once you get past thinking about the hunger, lots of insights can open up to you.

4. Jesus’ first temptation then is to get past the belly – taking care of one’s own needs.

5. Next, after Jesus is done and really wants to get on with things, not to mention get some food, Satan comes along. This is that moment of clarification for Jesus, when he discovers what he came to the wilderness to learn.

6. What he learns is the purpose of his mission, and the manner in which he will achieve it. You might say, wait a minute, all that happened was that Satan came and tempted him.

7. Exactly. And what did he tempt him with? Food, Power, and Safety. The things we crave most.

8. Satan says, if you are really who you say you are, turn these stones into bread. You are hungry after all. And here, Satan sows that seed of doubt. What if this whole mission thing is just craziness? What if Jesus is delusional? He’d better prove it.

9. And he can prove it by food. Provide food. Not just for himself but for everyone. Why should the world endure hunger anyway? Why should people starve to death. What kind of God would allow that?

10. Jesus rejects this argument by telling us that food is not the thing by which we truly live. Not in the soul, anyway. He knows he is not here to feed the whole world eternally.

11. Next, Satan promises power. Jesus can come in and be the good king of the world everyone has been looking for, the one who will set all things right. Who hasn’t felt – at least from time to time -that they could do a better job of running the world than the clowns who are in charge right now? Just give me the chance, and I’ll make it all work.

12. Satan says, well, here’s your chance; all you have to do is pledge allegiance to me. But Jesus rejects that, too. He says, God alone is the king. He alone is to be worshiped and obeyed. So, he knows, he is not here to have that kind of power.

13. Then Satan offers safety. Throw yourself off the temple tower, and angels will protect you. In fact, if you’re the son of God, making people safe ought to be your priority. What kind of God lets people get killed and maimed the way we do?

14. Jesus rejects this, too. He says, do not put God to the test, but he could just as easily say, “Don’t play God.” We are created from dust – as we were reminded on Ash Wednesday – and we will return to dust. Safety is not all it’s cracked up to be. If we are eternally safe, then we do not live. If we try to avoid death all our lives – to play God – then we miss the roles we are meant to play on earth. God’s mortal but beloved children who leave this earth to return to the Father.

15. No. Food, Power, and Safety were never what Jesus came to provide.

16. Not that they are BAD in and of themselves, mind you. Jesus fed people, he displayed awesome power, and he even raised the dead. But they are inadequate if what you want is real life.

17. The temptation that Satan brought was to have Jesus settle for worldly stuff instead of the one most important thing he came to bring. A loving relationship with God.

18. He was tempted to take the easy route, because to love people is hard. But that was his goal. And it is ours.

19. Giving up things in Lent, facing little temptations, reminds us that they do not define us any more than food, power, and safety defined Jesus. So, I think, much as I love chocolate, I can do without it for a few days. Amen.