3rd Sunday of Lent 2015:
Today we continue to look at our baptismal promises. This week we are talking about the last of the three promises where we are promising to reject Satan. Today we are thinking about rejecting all of Satan’s empty promises. Kind of like last week, it might be good to quickly remember what Satan’s promises look like.
Remember back in the Garden when the serpent is tempting Eve. He starts with a lie: did God really say you can’t eat from that tree? Last week we talked about how important it is to reject that lie, that work of Satan. But, he follows up his lie with two quick empty promises: you will certainly not die, and your eyes will be open and you will be like God. Both of these are empty promises.
First, Adam and Eve do die, and their death is a result of their poor choice. God did not create death, he did not create sickness, he did not create sin. These things happen because of the Original Sin and the fall of the world. Now, it is true that they didn’t die that exact minute. But, they certainly did die. Satan’s promise is empty: don’t worry you won’t die this minute, go ahead and do whatever you want, why worry about the long term.
Second, you will become like God. I’ve been thinking about this one all week. This empty promise is quite devious. Don’t we all want to become like God. Also, isn’t that what Jesus came to do, to make us all more like God? Yes, that is why Jesus came. What is wrong with the devil’s promise? What does it mean to become more like God?
I think it gets to what is in the heart of each human person. We were made by God in his image and likeness. He also made us for communion with God. So, each one of us has a longing for God, a desire in our heart that can only be satisfied by being in relationship with God. The devil’s promise: don’t be in a relationship with God, just put yourself in his place. All of the sudden, we are in the center of the universe. We are no longer looking for God to be the satisfaction of all we desire. Therefore, we have to turn to other things. This empty promise says: don’t search for God, become God and fill your life with other things.
How do these empty promises play out in our lives? Don’t worry about the long term, think only about today. Satan tries to trick us into believing that our actions do not have lasting consequences, live today, don’t worry about tomorrow. When I was a chaplain at the High School the kids would yell YOLO and then do something stupid. Yolo means, you only live once, so go ahead and do whatever. But, I’m sure I don’t have to convince all of you of the error of this empty promise. Of course our actions have consequences. Something we do today could carry with us the rest of our lives. Rejecting Satan’s empty promises means that we take ownership of our actions.
The other empty promise says that we can turn to things to fulfill the desires of our hearts. All we need is that bigger house, that nicer car, more power in the workplace, more prestige in the community. I’ll be happy as soon as I possess everything I see on TV, etc. Or this next pleasurable activity will really give me the happiness I desire. No, only our relationship with God is ultimately satisfying. The things of this world all fade away. No matter how much money, pleasure, power, or prestige we have, we will remain unsatisfied because we are looking for Christ.
If we have accepted some of these empty promises, don’t be afraid. It just means that it is time to turn to Christ. (Today we hear that he drives out the money changers from the Temple; or, Today we hear that he gives the living water to the woman by the well), what a beautiful image for Lent. Let Christ cleanse us and make us new. We know that only in him will we find the satisfaction of our deepest longings.