Freed and Thankful
 — Rev. Phil Hobson

February 14, 2016
First Sunday in Lent

Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Luke 4:1-13

Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.

“When you get there, call me!”

How many of us have heard these words, from parents or spouse or loved one? How many of us have used them?

“When you get there, call me!”

What that meant in my family was “call mom and let her know I am not dead in a ditch somewhere.”

And when you call, you have to talk about the trip, what you have seen, what construction slowed traffic down. Maybe not mention the ticket. That is up to you…

In many ways this is the story we have from Deuteronomy. When you get to the place that the Lord is giving you as an inheritance, when you take possession of it, you are to take the first fruits of the field, and take them to the place where the Lord has chosen for his name to dwell. And there you will offer a sacrifice to the Lord. And you will remember the story of where you have come from.

And you will remember that it is God who heard the cry of your people, and it is God who has brought you through, and it is God who made possible your new place in this new land and a new start.

So when you get there, remember that God has brought you through. And offer the very first benefits of being there to God. Give them to God and use them for a feat among the people.

There… Where is “there?”

For some, it is when they finally feel successful. For some, graduation. For some, marriage. For some, promotion. For others, simply employment. New house. New car. First member of the family to go to college. Getting out of an abusive relationship. Leaving a toxic environment, whether it is the water or air or land that are toxic, or it is the relationships. Retirement.

Whatever your “there” is, offer the first fruits of the benefits of being there, and remember that God has brought you through.

It is easy enough to think that we did it all ourselves. “Lord, I know I am running late for this meeting, and I really need you to give me a parking spot close to the door so I can…..wait, someone is pulling out, never mind, I found one.”

It is easy to fall back to assuming that pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps and surviving based solely on our own wits and abilities is what is happening. Last night, we had a sick kiddo. Unpleasantly sick; and that is as far as I will go to describing it. On the one hand, there was a lot of parental teamwork and lots of comforting the child and not a lot of sleep. On the other hand, there was a lot of prayer.

When the kid hops out of bed this morning, fit as a fiddle, it would be possible for tired parents to simply high five each other and get on with our day. But if I prayed about it while going through it, I have to give thanks when I come out the other side.

And to be honest, is not each day that we wake up a new “there?” It is good to have goals and seek to learn and grow and achieve new things, and to pray throughout, and give thanks after. But is not each morning when we open our eyes and draw a new breath an opportunity to say, “Thank you, God!”?

And just because we have arrived at our there, be it a big life-altering goal, or getting our feet on the floor in the morning, does not mean we are not tempted to forget God. I can remember Tout and Dot Toutant had one of my favorite prayers printed and posted in their dining area:

Dear Lord,
So far I’ve done all right.
I haven’t gossipped,
haven’t lost my temper,
haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent.
I’m really glad about that.

But in a few minutes, God,
I’m going to get out of bed.
And from then on,
I’m going to need a lot more help.

When Jesus is tempted by Satan, what are the temptations?

  • Give up your mission for God and just feed your own hunger. Forget that you are to be bread for the world, and just make your own bread.
  • Here, I will give you the authority of this world, just switch from loving God to serving me.
  • Fine, if you won’t turn from God, let’s test God. You sing the psalm about “And he will raise you up…” so let’s see if he will do it! Jump off this temple and see if the poetic verses of the psalm are meant to be interpreted literally.

In each temptation is something appealing: food, power, certainty. Otherwise not much of a temptation. But the real test is whether or not Jesus will give up on God. The real test is whether or not, when we who are being freed by God, when we who are already freed by God, when we who are crying out to God to be freed, when we ARE free, do we stop and give God thanks. Do we gather our friends and family and celebrate what God has done for us?

Because if we hoard it all up, and if we assume we did it all ourselves, and if we do not cry out to God when we are in need, and do not thank God when we have come through, are we really free yet?

“Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens [foreigners, immigrants] who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house.”

Thanks be to God. Amen.