Even though I know its all about misdirection and mirrors, I enjoy a good magic show. It makes for an interesting diversion, and evening's entertainment when I am invited to forget the worries and cares of the day and allow myself instead the luxury of being deluded. It bothers me that some people think of Church in the same way – an hour's entertainment of sorts, when they can forget the real world with its pain and grief and indulge instead in the fantasy world of heaven and the hereafter. Nothing could be further from the truth, and this is what the season of Lent is supposed to teach us. It's not about giving up this or that – unless what you choose to give up is ignorance and apathy. Lent is the challenge to not allow ourselves to be misdirected by our casual lack of attention to detail. It dares us to do more than just oooh and ahhh at the resurrection miracle and wonder 'how did You do THAT God?' Lent is your challenge to us to walk with the miracle maker every step of the way so that we can see – really see- what it is that you have done God. But will we?
You have given us 40 days starting with Ash Wednesday on the 25th of February to learn how to see the truth behind the temptations, and so withstand them, to attempt the long walk to Jerusalem, and not be waylaid, to take up our cross willingly and sacrifice ourselves and our comfort for the sake of justice, peace and salvation for all. But will we God, will we?
It's easier to allow ourselves to be misdirected and deceived. After all hasn't the hungry world just been given everything it's been praying for, proof positive that social justice matters, that the small person counts: an end to the war in Iraq, an end to torture, economic rescue and a solution for the credit crunch, help for the helpless, food for the hungry... Stones into bread – YES WE CAN!
Just as we can walk to Jerusalem through the rubble of Gaza. You will give your angels charge over us so that we will not stumble or fall over the bodies of children, the ruins of schools or the deaths of civilian Palestinians, wont you God. Throw ourselves off our moral high ground without fear of retribution? – YES WE CAN..
For we have found someone we can really believe in, a man who really inspires us, really enables us to believe in the future of humanity... fall down and worship...? YES WE CAN...
The temptations are all too real.
And Lent is the unpopular reminder to see them for what they really are.
What was that you told us God, Man shall not live by bread alone... The money that the West is spending on bailing out the banks from the consequences of its greed so that we can continue to satisfy our consumer hunger here in the West is enough to eradicate all world poverty for over two years.
Didn't you tell us God, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test... God upholds the righteous, not the Western powers. The blood of innocent Palestinian children, of over 1000 civilians in Gaza cries out to God for justice and will undoubtedly cause the whole world to stumble and fall in the future.
Didn't you warn us God - Worship the Lord your God and him alone... As revolutionary as his appointment is, Barack Obama is still only a politician. Even if he is a good man, a generous man, even a gracious man, he is still only a politician with limited power. He is unable, even if he were willing to try, to save the world from its greed for power, status and for wealth for his current position is dependent on that power, status and wealth. No – sorry Barack – but we know you cant. And neither can we.
But I do know someone who can, someone who changed the world by telling the truth in love and inspiring millions who gave not their money, but their very lives to support its cause. Someone who thought everyone worth feeding, worth saving and worth loving, not just his party, those who believed in him. He taught us that only when we each take up our own cross, and stop expecting someone else to carry it for us, will we be able to see through the self-deception and misdirection that makes the miracle of Easter seem just a trick of the light.
God, you so loved the world, that you sent it the truth in Jesus and Lent is our invitation to explore why and how.
Can we ever be saved from the temptations, the lies and the trickery that we sell ourselves?
With Your help God help – Yes we can.
But will we?