I wonder how many of you own an iPad or an iPhone, or perhaps an Apple Mac computer. Although the book of Genesis does not say what the fruit on the tree of knowledge of good and evil was, for some reason the apple seems to have been adopted as the fruit – and so we have Eve’s pudding and men in particular have an Adam’s apple. And then there’s Apple computers with their logo of an apple with a bite (byte?) taken out of it. In the film The Matrix, the lead character, Neo, acquires various skills and abilities simply by downloading them via a computer interface – much as we download ‘apps’ onto our phones or tablets. There are so many useful apps – ones which track what exercise you take or help you with a diet, providing so much information and analysis. On the radio the other morning, there was a discussion about university courses being available on the internet so that people could study for a degree from home and what people might be missing out on by doing so.
Learning via the ‘apple’ route appears far easier and cheaper (the internet university modules are free) than years of studying books in a classroom, doing extensive research or practice. Adam and Eve give in to temptation – with spectacular consequences. Jesus resists temptation. We are rarely tempted by the ordinary, the ugly or the boring routine.
Temptation is always presented to us as something attractive, something which will give quick results, a shortcut to a desired outcome, something which will improve our lives – whether it’s the knowledge of good and evil via a piece of fruit, or some labour-saving device, wrinkle-banishing beauty cream or alluring perfume – we are susceptible. It’s not that these things are wrong in themselves.
Eve was tempted by fruit – good, nourishing, by the gift of knowledge. In our gospel reading, the devil tempts Jesus with making food, winning influence, getting people’s attention.
Temptation often takes the form of an easy option rather than a hard one. One option might involve cutting corners to get where you want to be – or even where God wants you to be – while the other option involves completing the course, regardless of the terrain, to get where you need to be. And so competitors are tempted to take a shortcut in a cross country race on foot or horseback. The problem with cutting corners is that you often fail to learn anything from the experience and/or we wonder what satisfaction there could possibly be in winning a race, knowing you have cheated. As an extreme example, the person who gets a friend to take their driving test for them may have a licence but will lack the skill to drive and be a danger to themselves and others.
Jesus’ example of resisting the temptations he was faced with in the wilderness shows that overcoming temptation not only makes us stronger but is bound up with issues of integrity, morality and mission.
It is a question of doing things God’s way rather than our own.
Doubtless we could think up many different ways in which we might grow our churches on this peninsula. Psalm 127 : “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain”. We face choices between many good things – all the good things we could achieve in our communities.
But unless it is God’s way, it will ultimately not succeed. And so we must pray continuously, every step of the way so that God’s way will be made clear to us. Prayer must be at the heart of all that we do and decide as we look to the future. For that reason, the team clergy decided some weeks ago that we would offer the opportunity for us to pray together for that vision of the future to become clear.
The first of these weekly meetings is this coming Tuesday evening (11th March) at 6pm at St John the Baptist church, Butley. It will be for no more than 30 minutes and will be at the same time and in the same place (nearest the geographical centre of the benefice) every week. If you feel unable to come in person, please consider making time to join us in prayer in your home or wherever you happen to be. Resources will be provided.
As well as meeting in prayer, there is also the opportunity – open to all – for us to explore our vocation as a church in learning and discussion. Please put in your diaries now the first 4 Thursday evenings or Friday mornings in May when there will be a series of meetings led by the Rural Dean, Clare Sanders and the Diocesan Director of Ordinands and New Ministers, Mark Sanders.