Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Journey to Hope...Tempation

"Depleated and In Need of Refueling"

Do you think God has a sense of humor? I do! I’ve seen it too many times. I’ve seen it usually as a sense of humor that teaches me something I need to learn.

I walk by our church sign several times a week. There’s the sermon title, right there in front of me. I read it every time I walk up the ramp into the building. So many times I don’t think about it. Sometimes it reminds me of what I’m preaching about on the weekend. Sometimes it’s where God’s humor shows up.

I had an awesome work week. There were great team meetings full of energy and hope. I had several meaningful pastoral care moments this week. I felt the support by an awesome staff. But it was one of those really full weeks. In 2 days time I spent 30 hours in this building or doing this work. That’s how it happens sometimes, though not often. By the time I came in Thursday morning to work, I was wore out from not sleeping well, had a sore throat, and was feeling like I was catching a cold. And as I walked up the ramp to come into the building, the sermon sign that read “depleted and in need of refueling” made me laugh. See, God does have a sense of humor. God must have thought I needed a personal example this week from which to preach.

It seems I’m not the only one who knows what it’s like to need refueling. All week long people said to me: I can’t wait to hear that sermon!
Jesus, in his humanity, knew the need for refueling.

Mark’s gospel begins with Jesus’ need for refueling. He’s just been baptized, when the Spirit drove him into the wilderness. If Jesus was going to begin his public ministry, perhaps he should get away for a while to refuel himself for what was to come.

Jesus needs refueling after his initial public ministry. He’s been teaching and healing. He leaves the crowd behind. Jesus goes so far as to cross to the other side of the sea, into a foreign land. He and the disciples need a little time away.

And then again after the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus needs refueling. He sends the disciples to the “other side” again. This time he dismisses the crowd, helping them know he needs some time away. And Jesus himself goes up a mountain to pray. He sends the disciples for refueling, and he as a leaders does the same for himself.

Right before Jesus heads to Jerusalem comes another time out. Jesus takes his closest friends up the mountain for prayer. While they are up there, they have a time of spiritual renewal, an amazing experience of God. Jesus will carry with him this encounter with the living God into Jerusalem and his impending death.

On the night of his arrest, Jesus is keenly aware of his need for refueling. He is in tremendous emotional pain. The scriptures describe him as distressed, agitated, and deeply grieved. He realized how close he was to the agony that lay ahead. So he takes his closest friends to the garden with him to pray. This day his refueling has the familiar component of personal prayer and personal connection with God, and it has the important component of spiritual friends carrying him into the presence of God. How important it was that they “stay awake” to Jesus’ needs. How important it was that they are there for Jesus’ refueling.

Why is it so important to be refueled? What happens when we are spiritually, physically or emotionally wore out?

Well, I found out this week again what happens when I get physically wore out. The body becomes vulnerable. It’s so easy for me to get sick when I’m physically wore out. I don’t eat right or sleep enough, and my body just gets more vulnerable to illness. If I don’t take time to refuel, I will get sick. So, when I get to this point, I remember what works. I remember it’s my allergy season and take the allergy pills. I take my vitamins and my vitamin C. I drink lots of water and rest a lot. In other words, I refuel myself physically.

What happens when we are spiritually, physically or emotionally wore out? We are vulnerable to temptation. Temptation comes to everyone. It isn’t that good Christians don’t experience temptation. It comes to all of us, and it comes in many forms. We can be tempted by relationships that are outside of appropriate. We can be tempted by actions that are ungodly. We can be tempted by words that are meant to hurt. We can be tempted by the easy way out. We can be tempted to break rules that will make our lives easier. Temptation comes into everyone’s life.

When we are wore out, temptation has a stronger pull on our lives. We over eat or under eat to deal with our exhaustion. Extramarital affairs are a far easier decision when we have emotional pain in our marriages. Looking for a way to deal with our physical or emotional pain, the temptation to medicate is strong. Prescription drugs get overused. Alcohol or illegal drugs get abused. Whatever it takes to mask our pain or get through it. Shortcuts and lies in our work come to be justified in our minds. When we are depleted and in need of refueling, temptations can have a strong pull on our lives.

We can choose life-giving resources or quick remedies for our need to refuel. When I am tired, I could sleep. But all too often I choose chocolate and caffeine. Bring on the diet Mt. Dew and the candy bar. That should do the trick! Unfortunately, the tired after that is even more intense.
And that’s the thing about quick remedies to refuel. They often push the pain into the future. They mask the real need only for so long. And the quick fixes don’t fill us in a way that can stand up to temptation, so that we find ourselves equally as vulnerable to temptation as before.

Jesus’ refueling station was the life-giving resource of prayer. When he was wore out, he reconnected with God. When he had taught and healed and had nothing left to give, he went away by himself for reconnection with God. When he had something as difficult to do as give his very life up for us, he took spiritual friends with him to pray. He counted on his friends to carry him to God, while at the same time praying intimately and personally to God.

What refueling station will give you life? Time away in prayer? Connection with God through spiritual friends? Worship that carries you into God’s presence? A quiet devotional reading of scripture?

Temptation will come. It always does. Will you have filled up before temptation arrives at your door? Will you have gone to the refueling station that is God? Because that is the place of power that can help you resist the temptations that come your way. That is the place of hope. That is the place of lasting healing. Amen.

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