March 5 Sermon

“Tempting Slogans”
A Reflection by Rev. Dr. Thom Bower
For March 5 2017, the First Sunday of Lent
Based on Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 and Matthew 4:1-11

What is there to lose? Go for the gusto. You would feel worse if you didn’t try at all. You’ll always regret it if you don’t take this opportunity. You don’t want to look back and always wonder, “What if I had taken the chance …” Go ahead – take the risk. Stand up for yourself. God helps those who help themselves.

You are selling yourself short. You are more capable than you realize, all you need to do is claim your authority. Don’t shy away from it; in fact, if you do not claim it, you will find yourself out of control. Seize control and trust yourself. You have everything you need. I mean, what would really Jesus do?

OK, so maybe you need some time to learn more about the field. You can get that education. You can learn those skills. You can grow up to be anything you want to be. Anyone can grow up to be President. The worst thing you can do is doubt yourself. Have a bit more self-confidence.

C’mon, indulge yourself just a little bit. It’s OK if you overdo it once in a while, especially since you are so disciplined the rest of the time. Just this once won’t hurt you. Besides, no one will know but you. No one is watching, and you never have to tell anyone. It is good to splurge once in a while, and you have been working so hard lately. You deserve a gift for yourself. What is life if you don’t celebrate once in a while?

You are not too fat. You are not too thin. You are just right. If you exercise a little bit you’ll have more energy to get through the day, and that means you can do your work more efficiently and then you’ll have more time for your hobbies at home. That little bit of exercise will let you wear those clothes you have been wanting – you know, the ones in which you look really good, the one’s that help you attract everyone’s attention when you walk into the room? The ones that let people know you are in charge and communicate success? That’s right: a power-suit! After all, you want to be able to impress people, right? You want people to come to you and ask for your opinion, seek out your advice. How else will be able to share God’s wisdom?

Everyone is going to be so proud of you. Sure, you have some hard work in front of you, but think of the rewards at the end. Think of the press releases, the media coverage, the way it will advance your reputation.

Sure, you might have to relocate. You really should invest in a larger home anyways –  increasing your real estate portfolio, that’s what you are doing. And get into a better neighborhood. I know you have been praying about your worries of the neighborhood. There’s no telling who might move in next door to you now. They might not have as good a job as you do, because you have a good education that got you where you are. They might not be educated at all. They might be dumb. They might not even speak English. They might bring their friends and family around, and they’ll hang around and play games in the street. That would bring down the property value of your home. Yeah, I think you are really going to have to move so you can live near a better class of people. You should give that some prayer.

Oh, you’ll make new friends. You are such a nice person, and others want to get to know you. Don’t be so shy. Go out to a few parties and let people get to know you. Soon you’ll hardly remember you even came from here.

Well, sure, I guess you can have some time to pray about this. I just don’t know why you are so resistant to this. It’s as if God has given you a gift that you are unwilling to accept. How do I know it is a gift from God? Well, look at all the possible things that may come from this. There are a lot of good opportunities that might occur.

What do you mean you’ll have to give up something? Of course you will – in life there are always exchanges. Don’t you want what this has to offer? Look at how much more important you will be. What do you mean you don’t want to be important? What do you mean that the responsibilities seem too great? You can’t mean that! This is your chance to seize the power, to take control. Oh come now, everyone wants to be in control. If you’re not in control, then someone is controlling you.

Sure, God will look out for you – but the best defense is a good offense. You need to be more aggressive. With just a little bit more assertiveness you could be running this place all by yourself. You don’t want to be all by yourself? Hey, now you are making too much of the things I’m saying. It is not as if you’ll be alone all the time. You’ll have your friends, and there will be lots of people working for you.

And of course you’ll have me. I’m willing to go all the way with you. I’ll be there with each step you take, helping you decide what’s best for you and keeping away all those others who only want to ride on your coattails. You got to be choosy about who you associate yourself with, know what I mean? The wrong people could ruin your reputation and spoil your success. And I’ll be here to help you identify who is good for you and who is not. You have just got to remain true to yourself.

Why do I keep whispering in your ear? Well, you don’t want everyone to have the secrets to your success, do you? Why do I keep you up late at night? It’s just that I get caught up in my own desires for your success that I can’t contain my enthusiasm and I loose track of the time.

Can I wait for you to pray? Well, you see, I really think we need to strike while the iron is hot. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you don’t want to miss it. Nothing should delay you from making this decision,  and … well, prayer has always struck me as just talking to yourself anyway. So just go with your gut instinct and seize the day. Today is the first day of the rest of your life, so live it like there is no tomorrow.

You’re gonna stick with that prayer thing, huh? Well, I hope it doesn’t completely blow your chance at this. I’ve worked real hard to get you this opportunity, and this is the thanks I get?! Your unwillingness to take the chance when it presents itself? Really, I thought you would be ready to take the risk when it came time to make the decision. What kind of appreciation is this? Why are you letting me down?

You know, you have to make a decision on this right away or it will be taken by someone else. I mean it: I’ve already been approached by at least five people who want this very same opportunity you have. If you don’t give me an answer right now then I may just have to give it to them instead.

Well, I must say that your insistence on praying about this matter before you decide is really beginning to annoy me. It could have been you and me, the two of us, all the way to the top. But now you’re going to pray about it. You probably want to get the advice of some of those people you hang out with at that church too. They are not lawyers you know; they won’t appreciate the fine nuances of this agreement I am offering you. You’re just going to spoil this for yourself, and then no one will benefit from it. It’s such a great plan, too, but since you’re unwilling to participate, we’ll just have to go our separate ways.

You’ll regret this day; mark my words, you’ll see what kind of success you could have been and you’ll regret making prayer and religion a priority in your life rather than seeing to your comfort and financial success and securing your social status. So go hang out with those church folk, take care of the poor and the needy, see what they do for your social life. All I’m saying is you’ll have more headaches than you ever imagined. And you’re going to miss sleeping in on Sunday mornings; that routine will get old very fast.

One last chance: take it or leave it. All or nothing. But you have to decide now – no stalling tactics, I just won’t take them. Are you with me or are you against me? Make up your mind now.

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