Text: Matthew 4:1-11
In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
- If I said we don’t like talking about sin on Ash Wednesday then how much less do we like to speak of the Devil.
- In some churches the realty of evil has become such a problem that the rejection of evil and all rebellion against God that it can be safely removed from the baptism service, that core message sidelined into an optional extra. Not here.
- But evil is real and present
- For although I don’t necessarily hold on to the image of the devil as pointy horns and a tail and a pitchfork it can be sometimes useful to take all the evil in the world and to wrap it up and give it a label because if you label it then you can own and control it.
- In Harry Potter the naming of the embodiment of evil is avoided ‘he who must not be named’ or ‘you know who’.
- It is only young Harry and his mentor, Professor Dumbledore who is unafraid to name Voldemort and thus state that he has no extraordinary power.
- Evil does not come in hideous form, but rather appears attractive and beguiling
- Two of the most powerful portrayals of the devil in the cinema have been Robert de Nero and Al Pacino – suave, sophisticated, attractive and deadly – which is eaxtly what evil looks and feels like – to disguise evil as hideous makes it unattractive and who would be seduced by the unattractive?
- The Tempter (as he is described in the Gospel of Matthew) does precisely that: he is a source of temptation to Jesus and to all of us because the temptations he tried to beguile Jesus with are the same the temptations he will try on us.
- The tempter, the work of all evil in the world, seeks
- To undermine our self esteem,
- to question our identity and
- to seek to supplant himself and all the corruption of evil in place of our relationship with God.
If you are the son of God / If you are a child of God…
He will try to adduce us to
- Meet your physical needs first, look to your self
- Test God and test those around you
- Ignore your god given identity and turn away from him.
- Each of these temptations seek to question or identity, as a person and as a child of God.
- However we have a response which is as heartfelt as Jesus’s responses: I am baptised
- It is significant that this temptation starts immediately after Jesus himself was baptised: from that identity the devil tries to undermine him.
- Not I was baptised,
- a past act which has no significance
- but a present reality which is the ultimate defence against evil
- Go Away (in my mind, those words in the face of evil are a bit stronger but) go away, I am baptised, and the gates of hell will not and cannot prevail against me.
- So when you are tempted, when dark doubts assail you in the words given to me by Dom Basil:
- Not I was baptised,
Trust Him when dark doubts assail you, Trust Him when your strength is small, Trust Him when to simply trust Him seems the hardest thing of all.
- You can boldly stand before the face of evil and declare ‘I am baptised!‘
- Against the dull murmur which seeks to undermine you – shout ‘I am baptised’
- Against the loud shouts of condemnation, shout back ‘I am baptised’
- Against the darkness which may threaten to engulf us in doubt about our identity, cry boldly ‘I am baptised!’
- …and the temptation to turn from your purpose and vocation as a beloved child of God means nothing, for God is in all.
- You are made in the image of God, and it is the never-ending purpose of the Tempter to tarnish that image
- To make you forget that image
- To make you feel guilt because you may have marred that image
- To reduce your worth in the eyes of yourself or others
- But we can shout back with vigour and confidence: “I AM BAPTISTED!”
- …and Christ has won this for me, and it can never be diminished.
- For you do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God
- You have no need to put the Lord to the test, for you have every confidence what he has won for you in the Victory of the Cross
- You therefore do not need to be distracted by the shiny things of this world, by money, power, sex or fame because the Lord your God offers everything that your soul desires.
For you have all, and you can proudly boast
“I AM BAPTISED”