Sermon- Bread Alone (Matthew 4, Deuteronomy 8)

Sermon Series Bread 1110 x 624Lenten Sermon Series: Bread
This sermon series was inspired by the book Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers by Margaret Feinberg.

Message 2 of 5: Bread Alone
Scriptures: Matthew 4:1-4; Deuteronomy 8:1-3
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/8/2020 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire contemporary worship service, including the message which starts at the 35-minute mark.

Jesus still wet from his baptism in the Jordan. With the affirmation of the Father ringing in his ears, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) Heads into the Judean wilderness before beginning his public ministry.

Here’s one of the surprises I had in Israel- The Mount of Temptation is really close to Jericho. Everyone for thousands and thousands of years has wanted Jericho because it’s an oasis. It’s rich in people, water, fruits, and vegetables. If you go there be sure to try the dates and bananas and kabob. Jericho is rich in bread.

Jesus chooses to fast for 40 days on the next hill. I suspect he could hear the laughter from Jericho. He could smell their cooking, see the crops growing. I suspect it gave him quite an appetite.

Matthew 4:1-3  
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

The Wilderness
The wilderness will humble you. It will show you how frail and needy and lonely you can be.

Jesus not only chooses to go into the wilderness, he chooses to fast in the wilderness. Fasting is the spiritual discipline for getting serious with God. It’s the spiritual discipline for testing your heart, your motivations. Fasting removes the filters and brings up all the junk. Fasting is roto-rooter for your soul.

The wilderness is also a place to meet the tempter

Temptation #1- Identity
If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

The Devil slides in and questions Jesus’ identity. The Devil does the same to us. If you are a good parent… Are you really a good parent? Are you really a writer? Are you really a ____________? Are you really a beloved child of God? You’re a pretender. You’re an imposter. Those are the words of the tempter.

Jesus knows he’s the Son of God. He was just reminded at his baptism. The Devil knows who Jesus is, too. The question is, do we know who we are?

Jesus is reminded at his baptism as so are we every time we reaffirm our baptismal vows. Look how closely the vows relate to this scripture.

The United Methodist Baptismal Vows
I renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of my sin.

I accept the freedom and power God gives me to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

I confess Jesus Christ as my Savior, put my whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as my Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races.

According to the grace given to me, I will remain a faithful member of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representative in the world.

If you are a beloved child of God… Yep, that’s who I am!

Jesus knows who he is and the Devil knows who Jesus is. So the Devil double-dog dares Jesus to prove who he is.

Temptation #2- Power
If you are the Son of God command these stones to become loaves of bread

Simple, practical, diabolical

Ok Son of God, prove who you are with a display of your power. Command. Fix the situation. You’re hungry. Force the situation, turn stones into bread. Serve yourself. Satisfy your appetite.

Then the Devil turns to us. Ok so you’re a Beloved Child of God, use your power to command. To fix and force. Serve yourself. Satisfy your appetite. Be the god of your needs.

Then there are times we turn to God with a devilish demand. Ok God, you say you love me. Use your power to fix and force this situation. Fix and force to serve me, to satisfy my appetite. Lord have mercy.

Matthew 20, Mrs. Zebedee does this. Her sons are two of Jesus’ most trusted disciples, James and John. The sons of thunder. Can you imagine these guys, much less mama!

Mrs. Zebedee asks Jesus to fix and force, satisfy her appetite. She requests her sons to be given the highest positions in Jesus’ kingdom. Serve me, Jesus, by serving my boys. This naturally upset the other disciples. Here’s his reply.

Matthew 20:25-28
25 Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 26 It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

It’s not about us being served by fixing and forcing in our own power. It’s not about expecting God to fix and force on our behalf. It’s about humility and service. That’s who I am as a child of God.

Temptations = Misuse. In this case the misuse of our God-given identity, power, and blessings.

bread-and-stone-whittemoreTemptation #3- Blessings
If you are the Son of God command these stones to become loaves of bread

It is sin and idolatry to twist the blessings of God into something they were never meant to be. Stone was never meant to be bread.

It’s twisting God’s good gift of work into a workaholic.
Love into lust, abuse, pornography, prostitution, enmeshment
Excellence into perfectionism
Food into gluttony, over-processing, eating disorders

In the wilderness, you meet the tempter but it’s also the place to meet God. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness just like the slaves leaving Egypt were led by the Spirit into the wilderness. Into the wilderness and in wilderness.

The wilderness is both dangerous and holy. The Spirit doesn’t just drop Jesus off and say, “Bye-bye. See you in a few weeks.” Imagine how many encouraging, inspiring, intimate conversations the Father, Son, Spirit have those 40 days in the wilderness. I want to see that on the jumbotron when I get to heaven.

Jesus, affirmed by the Father, led by the Spirit, answers the tempter with the word of God. “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 and Deuteronomy 8:3)

Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 8:1-3
God speaking through Moses, 1 This entire commandment that I command you today you must diligently observe, so that you may live and increase, and go in and occupy the land that the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors.

Notice the command is not self-serving. It’s not about control. It is for our good so that we may live.

2 Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments.

People of God were led by the Spirit in the wilderness from slavery to freedom.
The same is true for us through the life death and resurrection of Jesus. The wilderness humbles us. Fasting tests what’s in our hearts and reveals it.

God tests us to reveal what’s in our hearts so we may draw closer to God. It’s always for our good. Testing calls us to the higher road and to life. God never tempts. The Devil tempts us away from God and our true selves.

3 He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Am I Living Life by Bread Alone?
My appetites rule my life. I’m misusing my identity, my power, and the blessings of God.

My Motivation is to satisfy my appetite. I will use my power to get what I want. “I need it. I want it. I crave it.”

I control. I force. I cut corners. I manipulate. I will justify my actions as practical, “just doing business.”

It’s idolatry and sin to separate the practical from the spiritual when it’s all spiritual. It’s idolatry and sin to take my God-given identity, power, and blessing and twist it into something it was never meant to be.

No! I’m not going to live by bread alone. I live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord!

I know who I am in Christ. Do you know who you are in Christ?

Have you recognized the power God gives you and are you using it for the glory of God?

Do you respect God’s blessings? Can you see them all around you? Are you using them for the common good?

Prayer
Jesus, help us to see who we truly are. To see the power and blessings you’ve entrusted to us. Give us eyes to see. Help us to see how we are misusing these gifts. We confess it. We ask for your forgiveness. Turn us right. Untwist us. Do not let the Devil deceive or tempt us.

Jesus, thank you for the ways we are cooperating with you. Using what you entrust to us for good. We know there’s good in us because of you. Overcome the evil with the good. Overcome the temptation with your power, your resurrection power, your new life. Forgive us and make us new, Jesus. Use us for your good. I am a Child of God. Glory to God. Amen.

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Sermon- Bread Alone © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Ash Wednesday: A Wilderness Prayer (Deuteronomy 8)

man desert path

God of the Ages
Our Deliverer and Provider
We bow in humility before your grace

You feed us with the divine
Your word
Your body

You quench our thirst with living water
A stream in the desert

You guide our feet through snares and snakes

You free us from slavery to sin and self and shame and death

You lead us the long way to holiness and home

Test our hearts
Have we exalted ourselves?
Have we forgotten you?

time of silent reflection and confession

Reveal the truth to us, O God
Exposed by your unrelenting light
Wiped clean with your Wilderness Wind

Grow in us wholehearted allegiance
that our blessing and devotion may never waver
that we may always recognize and trust your desire to do us good
Amen

For more on the themes of wilderness and confession, pray and reflect on Desert by Steve Garnaas Holmes.

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A Wilderness Prayer © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Based on Deuteronomy 8:2-3; 14-16

You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Light in the Wilderness, a Lenten Rock Garden

Lent Garden 1

A few years ago, the good folks at Picture Lent suggested creating a wilderness rock garden as a visual reminder of the season. I loved the idea and continue to use it.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED
Sand
A tray
At least 40 rocks in a container
Tealight and holder
optional- additional symbols

ASSEMBLING THE ROCK GARDEN
Place a couple of inches of sand in the tray. I used a woven tray so I had to line it with parchment paper and place it on a solid tray.

Place the tealight in its holder on the sand. Add additional symbols if you like.

I use a mixture of rocks and shells from my travels in my garden. Use what’s meaningful to you.

Lent Garden 4 set up

USING THE ROCK GARDEN
Spend a few moments in quietness as you place a rock in the garden every day during Lent.

What does the rock mean to you?

  • Is it a burden you are releasing to God?
  • Are you marking your time with Jesus in the wilderness?
  • Is it a habit tracker for something you’ve given up for Lent or a holy habit you’ve added for Lent?
  • Something else?

On Sundays, light the candle instead of placing a rock in the garden. Every Sunday is a little Easter, even during Lent.

I’d love to hear your ideas for using the garden!

Prepare the Way of the Lord- A Devotion for the First Week of Advent based on Handel’s Messiah

walk path water sunPrepare the Way of the Lord
Readings and Reflection for December 1-7

SONGS FROM HANDEL’S MESSIAH:
Comfort Ye and Ev’ry Valley
And the Glory of the Lord

SCRIPTURES to read this week:
Isaiah 40:1-5
Luke 1:57-80
Matthew 3:1-12

REFLECTION QUESTIONS for this week:

  • What in you needs to be lifted up or made low?
  • How are you preparing the way for those suffering from falsehood, prejudice, and injustice? Those yet to believe?

PRAYER:
The time is now, for you have called
The place is now, for you have spoken

Yes, it is a wilderness, a desert even
So dry, so rough, so uneven
Yes, the gap is so very wide between the high and the low

But, you have called, O God. You have spoken.
Not an if or when or maybe. Not even a try.

You have spoken shall

Every valley shall be lifted
Every mountain shall be made low
The uneven shall be made level
The rough shall be made smooth

So we will persevere in this wilderness of preparing
We will not forge a path or blaze a trail but make a highway
A highway for your coming
For your glory, O God shall be revealed in this place
And all shall see it
All shall see it together
~ Shall, by Lisa Degrenia

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Prepare the Way of the Lord
A Devotion for the First Week of Advent
based on Handel’s Messiah © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

A Wilderness Prayer (Deuteronomy 8)

man desert path

God of the Ages
Our Deliverer and Provider
We bow in humility before your grace

You feed us with the divine
Your word
Your body

You quench our thirst with living water
A stream in the desert

You guide our feet through snares and snakes

You free us from slavery to sin and self and death

You lead us the long way to holiness and home

Test our hearts
Have we exalted ourselves?
Have we forgotten you?

time of silent reflection and confession

Reveal the truth to us, O God
Exposed by your unrelenting light
Wiped clean with your wilderness wind

Grow in us wholehearted allegiance
that our blessing and devotion may never waver
that we may always recognize and trust your desire to do us good
Amen

********
A Wilderness Prayer © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Based on Deuteronomy 8:2-3; 14-16

You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.