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Know Thyself by Rev. Richard Hasselbach

Moonsturckis the story of Loretta and Ronnie, two star-crossed Italian lovers, and their complex families. Married to a philandering husband, Rose,Loretta’s mom, spends an inordinate amount of time by herself while her husband living his double life.


One scene finds Rose eating alone while, at a nearby table, a young woman is dining with an older man. Suddenly the woman stands, throws a glass of water at her date, and storms off. Rose invites the humiliated man, Perry, to join her and they share a meal and good conversation. After dinner, Perry walks Rose home and expects her to invite him in, but she doesn’t. Seeing the disappointment on his face Rose explains: “I can't bring you home because I know who I am.

In Luke’s account of Jesus’ temptation we know who Jesus is and so does he. He has just been baptized and, coming out of the Jordan the Spirit descended and the Father says: “You are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased.” That’s who he is.


The Spirit then led Jesus towilderness. The wilderness is a place of danger but it is also a place of opportunity: it is where a permanent relationship with God can be forged. Having brought Israel out of Egypt God allowed the Jews wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. During that time time of testing and temptation God also fell in love with His people: a love story that hasn’t ended to this day despite Israel’s sinfulness.


Jesus, the archetypal Israelite, now spends forty days in the wilderness fasting and in prayer. He is there to be tempted and succeed where Israel failed. Jesus is the one who will be perfectly faithful to the God whose faithfulness never fails.


Satan preys on weakness, he attacks us when we’re tired, or angry, or lonely, or hungry. Satan will attack Jesus where he thinks Jesus is vulnerable.


Knowing that Jesus will be hungry after 40 days without food, Satan tempts Jesus to satisfy his hunger. “Turn those rocks into bread,” he goads, “take care of yourself; don’t wait for God’s plan, have one of your own.” Jesus doesn’t fall for it though. “It is not by bread alone that man lives,” he says, quotingDeuteronomy. That passage continues: “but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” We must hunger for God’s word, more than we hunger for food. The word is food for our souls; when we eat that food we will never hunger.


Next Satan works on Jesus’ ambition by showing him all the power and majesty of earth’s kingdoms. “I’m the boss here,” Satan tempts, “I'll give it all to you if you worship me.” “You should worship your God alone.” Jesus responds.


Do we worship God alone. Satan tempts us, as he tempted Jesus, to put other things before our God. What do we want so badly that it becomes more important than God in our lives? Money, power, prominence: all the things offered by the world, can be powerfully alluring. When we put something ahead of God in our lives: when put ourselves first, or our careers, or our wealth, or our possessions, or our status, we are worshiping an idol just as surely as if we were bowing down before a golden calf.


Finally Satan takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and says, “It is written that ‘the angels will hold you up unless you bash your foot against the stone,’ If you are the son of God, try it.” Jesus responds: “Thou not shall test the Lord your God.” The Lord quoting a passage in Deuteronomywhere Moses is warns the people: “The Lord our God is a jealous God so stay away from the gods of the peoples all around you and do not put the Lord your God to the test.”


Jesus’ final tests will come in Gethsemane where he is tempted to forego the cross : “Father, if this cup would pass for me, let it. But not my will, but thine, be done,” and at the foot of the cross: “He, he saved others, himself he couldn't save. If you’re the son of God, come down from that cross.” Though tempted He remained faithful to the Father’s will.


“Lent” comes from an Old English word meaning “springtime.” It is the springtime of our spirit; a time when the earth comes back to life and sprouts new growth.


In the wilderness with Jesus we must fast as he fasted and deny ourselves so that we can focus on God; we must pray and rediscover our love affair with the Father in Christ. We can't do that without the scriptures; we can’t do that without a vibrant, spiritual life; and we can’t do that on Sundays alone. Christianity is a lifestyle. It is not a practice for weekends, that’s golf

In the wilderness with the Lord we will know who we are: sons and daughters, brothers and sisters to each other. Knowing that, can we all things in Him who strengthens us.


Toward the end of the Second World War, President Roosevelt asked the poet Steven Vincent Benet to write some remarks for the opening of the United Nations. By the time the war ended both the president and the poet had died, but Benet’s words remain. He wrote:

Our earth is but a small star in a great universe, yet of it we can make, if we choose, a planet unvexed by war, untroubled by hunger or fear, and undivided by senseless distinctions of race, color or theory.


Benet was wrong in only one respect: we cannot do this if wechoose, but when we claim our identity as children of God, we can work with him build the new heaven and a new earth where every tear will be wiped from our eyes.

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Clarkstown Reformed Church

107 Strawtown Road

West Nyack, NY 10994

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