Homily read at Our Saviour Lutheran Church on Invocavit Sunday, 17 February 2013.
Text: Genesis 3:1–21, Matthew 4:1–11
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
When the preacher declared in the book of Ecclesiasticus that there is nothing new under the sun, he was not joking. The history of the world was told pretty much in its entirety in the first four chapters of the Bible: its creation in love by God, man’s place in it with his wife, their temptation by the Devil and the fall, and the subsequent falling apart of everything: man’s relationship with his wife, man’s relationship with nature, and the beginning of the murder that makes up the significant part of all history books.
Everything since then has been a series of variations on this theme, with the emphasis being on the sinful half—although God in His unfathomable love graciously continues to allow the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the righteous and the unjust, and the goodness of the creation continues to speak of the goodness of its Creator.
What this means is that the large part of our lives on this planet is built on an arch-lie, first spoken by the father of lies in the Garden: “Did God really say?” Did God really say? And the moment they listened to that lie, everything went wrong for Adam and Eve, and for everyone ever since.
The basic message of the Devil’s lie is simple: God is not good, and His will is not good. The boundaries He has established are those of a tyrant or a spoil-sport. And from that lie arises every sin.
You shall have no other Gods—but what about me and my things?
You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain—but what about my faith and my opinions?
Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy—but not for too long and not too often, because there are other pressing matters to attend to as well and life’s too short.
Honour your father and your mother—but what about my will and my self-determination?
You shall not kill—but I cannot and will not love this or that person, and I will not let go of my grudge.
You shall not commit adultery—but that look, that thought, that joke, is just a bit of harmless fun. Am I not allowed to be happy?
You shall not steal—but I need it, I want it, and I must have it. And why should I give from what is mine?
You shall not bear false witness about your neighbour—but I must get this thing off my chest.
You shall not covet your neighbour’s house, wife, or other helpers—but I’m only human, and we’ve got to be realistic in this dog-eat-dog world.
And so the lies go on and multiply. The world is full of them, and we are full of them. Did God really say?
And to all this, God says: The day that you shall eat of the forbidden tree, you shall surely die. The lies are not white, and they are not harmless. Rebellion against God is rebellion against life itself, and the wages of sin is death.
Cain discovered this when he slew his brother. The whole world discovered this when God flooded the sinful world. Pharaoh discovered this when he thought he could stop God’s will with his stubbornness and his armies. The people of Israel discovered this when they found themselves going around in circles for forty years in the wilderness until the whole rebellious generation that left Egypt was dead and buried.
And we discover this at every funeral, and at every sign that we, too, are dying. The wages of sin is death, because the Devil’s lie has cheated us of God’s love and separated us from the Tree of Life.