Text: Luke 4: 1-13
Our moderator, The Right Rev. Richard Bott in his Lenten message encourages all of us in the United Church across Canada to practice asking one question throughout the Lent. That question is, “How’s your soul?” Let the question sink in for a moment. We often ask ‘how are you or how’s it going?’ To which we often reply ‘I’m fine, good or not bad.’ Then we quickly jump into talking about the weather, which is a big deal in Canada. The weather affects our daily lives, what to wear, and even what to eat.
He was pointing to how we talk what’s happening outside of us, so we can avoid talking about what’s really going on deep in our hearts. There are many reasons behind such a tendency. Unless it’s safe to do so, we can feel inhibited by the pervading culture from showing others who we really are or how we are feeling. It feels safer to stay in the shallow end. I used to think that our soul is very shy and reserved, but I’ve learned how generous and courageous our soul is. It thrives in a respectful environment. The soul gives everything it can in a relationship where it is seen, heard and understood.
We also don’t want to take up other’s space believing that everyone has a choice as to how much they want to reveal or not to reveal. This particular sense is generated from an individualistic worldview. Unless there is intimacy, there is no sharing. Sharing is getting rare because intimacy is getting rare. I am thankful that I grew up in a poor family in a poor neighbourhood. No one in the community had to be taught to share. Sharing was a way of sustaining our lives – not just material things, but also our feelings, stories and daily lives. We just knew how everyone was doing, and felt each other’s feeling: no need to ask ‘how are you or how is your day going?’
How is your soul? By asking the question not only to ourselves but also to one another, we can dive into the depth of relationship, and therefore can live differently.
We see an example of living counter-culturally in the life of Jesus. There was a confrontation throughout his life and ministry between the non-violent justice of kingdom of God and the violent injustice of the Roman Empire. The 40 days spent in the wilderness would signify the inner struggle he was going through. Jesus is bluntly telling us the ultimate questions he wrestled with not just for 40 days, but throughout his time on earth. Those questions have come down to us as a form of a dialogue between himself and the devil in such a visual and dramatic way. The dialogue consists of three questions, which are still relevant to us.
Who are you without any names or labels that the world has given you? Where does the real power come from? What makes you feel secure?
With those questions we can dive right into the heart of our relationship with God and with each other – not just one time but throughout our time on earth. The beauty of the story is not how Jesus overcame all the temptations facing himself but why this story was chosen to be told. A story is told because both the story and the listener are important to the storyteller. Jesus didn’t have to share his experience of struggle if it didn’t mean much to him, and if listeners, including you and I, didn’t mean much to him. It was as if Jesus was telling how it was with his soul to the most trusted friends, because they were going to go through the same challenges.
Those key questions can also provide us with some guidance as we’re looking back and looking ahead today. As I was reading the annual report, my heart was full of gratitude for all that you have done, and all that you are. With God’s help we have done something wonderful and beautiful making a difference in people’s lives. You have been very generous in sharing your time, energy, skills and talents. Surely, God was and is present here and actively involved in our worship, ministry, fellowship and outreach. We are hands and feet of Christ, caring for the lonely and the sick, and mending the brokenness of the world. We feel the urge to continue to partner with God whose creative spirit is always up to something new. And the same questions Jesus wrestled with are unavoidable.
Who are we without building, money or any other resources we could rely on? Where is the source of our power? What makes us feel secure? With those questions we can dive into the heart of our relationship with God and one another.
The same spirit, who met Jesus in the wilderness, meets us here, and works with and through us. In the power and grace of God, we will continue to love generously, care passionately, and tend the creation and the divine in everyone else.