What tempts you?

The collect for Tuesday of the first week in Lent is this:

Grant to your people, Lord, grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only true God; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

With this prayer we are connecting our story with the story of Jesus who was, according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke was tempted in the wilderness for forty days after his baptism in the River Jordan. There is so much here to discover and ponder. First, the petition is for grace. Not strength, not knowledge, not words to say in the face of temptation. Second, the temptations are all encompassing: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Many of us are probably uneasy with with the idea of an actual devil but here it is and this might be an interesting time to remember that the literal meaning of Satan or the devil (Satan is ha-satan in Hebrew - the adversary or opposer - and devil is diabolos in Greek, meaning accuser or slanderer). Third we are asking for pure hearts and minds to (fourth) follow God, who is named the one true God as opposed to the other gods that are in our lives.

I'll let you write your own translation of this collect as your Lenten exercise today, but here are some thoughts to ponder:

What in the world tempts you? We've been talking about the myth of the self-sufficient self-made person these last few days. Is that a temptation to you, to go-it-alone and judge yourself on not needing anyone? Are you tempted by other ideologies that lessen your ability to love your neighbors as yourself, to respect the dignity of other human beings, to serve Christ in all persons? Are you tempted by the world's standards that wealth and job status are the only real signs of success? What in the world tempts you?

What fleshly (earthly, bodily, concrete in this world) things tempt you? Overindulgence in food, drink, sex, material goods, money? What about being secretive or lying or cheating? Are you hoarding things - money, your feelings, electronic equipment, gadgets, your talents? Are you tempted to shield yourself from being vulnerable to your family and close friends, to close yourself off from them?

And then there's the devil. The slanderer, the accuser. Does the devil slander you by tempting you to believe that you are not worthy of being loved? That you are not enough as you are? That you are worthless, lacking talent, unable to succeed? Does that devil whisper in your ear: who do you think you are to attempt to follow your dreams, to share your gifts, to take a risk in a relationship, to offer your counsel or your expertise, accusing you of unworthiness or tempting you to doubt yourself? Does the devil try to convince you that you are a failure?

Think on these things during this time of self-reflection because they all get in the way of following God. Remember how Jesus found people who were bound by things that kept them from being free to think beyond their pain and doubt and frailty and fears and he released them from what was binding them so that they could follow him or be restored to their community or family or just that they could be free. Our temptations are not just bad things. They are obstacles to life. They are obstacles to joy. They are obstacles to loving God and serving our neighbor. 

And expose those temptations for what they are: temptations. Not facts. Ask God to help you learn how to release their hold over you and be free in both heart and mind.