Originally published in the King’s Stanley Magazine.
I wonder when you were last tempted to turn stones into bread?
A pretty easy question for us to answer! We don’t even have to think about it. What sort of temptations do we face then?
One might be the desire to “get even”, another might be to patronize someone so that we feel better about ourselves. Then there is the attraction of “giving up” on people or on things that require more effort than we wish to give.
As a general rule, our temptations are fairly trivial, mundane even. Is there an obvious temptation that you would add to my brief list?
My thoughts have turned to this topic because the Christian season of Lent started at the end of February with Pancake Day. I hope you enjoyed your pancakes whether homemade or shop-bought. Did you remember to buy the lemons in good time, or do you go for something else? Am I wasting words, hesitating before getting to the point which is that it is really Shrove Tuesday and is about being “shriven of our sins”?
At this point I am tempted to delete what I have written so far because I am in too deep. What is the link between sins and temptation? Can I explain it in a few words?
Let me come at this from a different angle.
Lent lasts 40 days because Christians remember that Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. Then Matthew’s gospel says, “he was tempted by Satan.”
Jesus resisted temptation; we tend to identify with Oscar Wilde’s claim that he was be able to resist everything “except temptation.”
How can we relate to that first temptation – stones into bread?
We are challenged to puzzle, to think it through. It is about material needs, about doing something good. We can also ponder on the way in which we can be dominated by desire, by “I must have.” That begins to show us the link that Christians see to “sin”- for example, if we are aware that our “great low price” comes at the expense of exploited labour in another land.
This month I haven’t aimed to give the answers so much as to try to provide a way of seeing why Lent can be used positively. Can we manage some sort of fast? Soup on Friday? Less screen time? Making a few phone calls, (we have been meaning to anyway)? Writing a letter? Reading one of the various Lent books?
Suppose we use our imagination. Is there something in our life that we find hard (a stone as it were)? Is there a way in which some good can come out of that? If so, then perhaps we could turn stones into bread after all.
Robert Draycott (Rev)