Summary: A sermon on Christ's victory over the three temptations of the devil.

The First Sunday of Lent

March 5, 2017

St. Andrew’s Church

The Rev. M. Anthony Seel, Jr.

Matthew 4:1-11

True Spiritual Power

On Tuesday (2/28/17), NPR’s On Point program did a segment on “Video Games for Adults.” According to the story, “More adult Americans are playing more video games for more hours than ever before.”

New York magazine reports that 155 million Americans play video games and they point out that that’s more than voted in November’s presidential election. [Frank Guan, “Why Ever Stop Playing Video Games,”]

It’s the subtitle to that article that snagged me: “Many Americans have replaced work hours with game play - & ENDED UP HAPPIER.” Ended up happier is in all caps.

I remember an arcade on Broadway in Manhattan from my growing up days. That place is long gone. There is still an arcade in Chinatown, another one on the Lower East side, and two others in Manhattan, but the arcade of the 21st century is in Brooklyn near Sunset Park. It’s called Next Level, and it costs $10 just to walk in the door.

Next Level’s space is filled with banks of monitors wired to video game consoles. You won’t find any pinball machines at Next Level. You will find Xbox 360 and Playstation consoles and hard-core video gamers.

New York magazine’s culture website, reports that “according to a variety of recent studies, more than 40% of Americans play at least 3 hours a week, 34 million play on average 22 hours each week, and 5 million hit 40 hours, and the average young American will now spend as many hours (roughly 10,000) playing by the time he or she turns 21 as that person spent in middle and high school classrooms combined.” [ibid.]

Professor Erik Hurst of the University of Chicago compared the number of hours that working class men in their 20s worked from “the beginning of the millennium until now.” He found that working class men in their 20s now work four hours less per week and they play video games for three hours a week.

They replaced four hours of work with three hours of video game play. Hurst sees “dire long term prospects for these less-employed men.” [ibid.]

Yet, the men report that they are happier. Why is that? This is the conclusion that Frank Guan, the writer of the New York magazine article draws: “To begin with, games make sense, unlike life…” [ibid.]

Life really doesn’t make sense if you don’t have a world view that explains sin and evil. I was struck by a quote in the NPR story – it was a Twitter comment on the New York magazine article – “We turn to games when real life fails us.”

When reality disappoints us, is escaping into a fantasy world of gaming the best option? Or would it be better to battle the demons of reality?

In our gospel lesson, Jesus goes mano a mano with the devil. He’s been alone in a desert wilderness for forty days and forty nights. He fasted during those forty days and night and he was hungry.

v.1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Like Moses, who was directed by God to ascend Mount Sinai, Jesus is led up by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. During their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, Israel camped in the Sinai wilderness as Moses met with God on Mount Sinai.

In the Sinai wilderness, the Israelites grew impatient as Moses stays on the holy mountain to receive the law from God. In their impatience they convince Moses’ brother Aaron to make an idol, a golden calf, which the people will worship. In His 40-day wilderness experience, Jesus faces three temptations from the devil.

vv. 2-3 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

Jesus had fasted 40 days and nights when He was approached by the devil. He was hungry and the devil tempts Jesus to use supernatural power to turn stones into bread.

v. 4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Jesus answers the devil with Scripture, Deuteronomy 8:3. This verse comes from a long address that Moses gives to Israel after Moses received the law from God on Mount Sinai. God’s Word feeds our souls – Moses believed and taught that. Jesus uses Moses’ words here to affirm this as He combats the first temptation from the devil.

Jesus accepts the Hebrew Scriptures, what we often call the Old Testament, as the Word of God. In the four Gospels, we see Jesus make reference to Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot, Isaac, and Jacob. These people and places are all from the Book of Genesis.

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