Darcy was a bright young woman, 20 years old. We were part of a Christian dinner and discussion group at college. One night we were talking about the growth of the church in 3rd world countries. We commented on how people in poorer countries who live hand to mouth seem to exercise their faith much more than we did in our comfortable middle class American lives. We spoke of how we only seem to need God in a crisis, and how in good times we often forget about God. Then she said it. She said "It’s not that we forget God. We just try to do it all ourselves, all on our own." Now Darcy was the epitome of organization and accomplishment. She was fiercely independent, and had competed with men all her life and beaten them, too. And I knew that deep inside she was lonely and tired of her independence. She said these words, and somehow I knew that she was not speaking in generalities, but that she was sharing something that was deeply personal. As I looked into her eyes, I knew that as she spoke she suddenly realized that she tried to do everything on her own, not only without other people, but without God as well. "We try to do it all ourselves," she said. Without others. Without God.
Today we meet Jesus in the wilderness, being tempted by the devil. After 40 days of fasting and praying, Jesus is hungry. The devil encourages Jesus to use his power as Son of God to feed himself… after all, why not? There is nothing wrong with feeding yourself when you are hungry. Likewise, when the devil takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple
He challenges Jesus to protect himself. After all, as God’s Son Jesus has charge of the angels—they can rescue him if he is thrown down. Lastly the devil shows Jesus the kingdoms of the world, promising that he would give them all to Jesus. Wouldn’t that be wonderful, if Jesus ruled all the nations of the world Then they would actually follow Jesus’ ways There would be no more violence or injustice or loneliness or pain.
Why wait for the slow process of God’s plan--
Three years of trying to teach a bunch of beginner disciples and telling stories in the vain hope of giving people a glimmer of God’s kingdom, when you to take a short cut, and put that rule into place now? The root of all these temptations is the same as what Darcy and the rest of us experience— Trying to do life all by ourselves, without others, and without God. I call it a DIY faith, a Do-It-Yourself kind of spirituality that puts our judgment and our effort at the center. The DIY faith often looks like a good thing After all, we value independence and hard work in personal lives and society. Shouldn’t we also believe that God helps those who help themselves? The short answer is no.
The phrase “God helps those who help themselves,” is not found in the Bible—
It is a saying from ancient Greek philosophy popularized by Benjamin Franklin.
But more to the point, the Do It Yourself faith contradicts the first commandment
In which God says, “I am the LORD your God, you shall have no other gods before me.”
Jesus quotes this commandment and its paraphrases from the Old Testament at the last temptation “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” Jesus knew that as Son of God, his power was God’s power. But he didn’t choose to operate independently of God—
Instead he stayed connected and faithful, refusing the DIY approach. These temptations probably weren’t a cake walk for Jesus. I think that is an important point, because we too confront things that either look good, and aren’t, Or just as often, things that look bad, but are actually a part of God’s work in our lives. In either case, we can be tempted to make gods of ourselves, using our own judgment and effort, as if we know better than God, all the while resisting what God is offering us. Darcy went on to get an MBA in Illinois after college.
She paid her way by being a church organist at a church 45 minutes away.
One evening after a long choir rehearsal, Darcy had a moment of inattention on her drive home. She crossed the center line, and hit an oncoming car. The other driver was a young man also in his early twenties, and he wasn’t wearing a seat belt. He didn’t survive the crash. This began a long dark night of the soul for Darcy. She had always been a serious Christian with a strong moral compass. She had always done her best to be good. And yet here she had made a mistake with the most deadly of consequences. She felt a terrible sense of guilt. How could she have done this? How could ever live with herself?
This went on for months. Then on day one of Darcy’s fellow students confided to her that she was a date rape survivor. She told her she too had felt guilty, as if she should have done something to stop it. She said the way to her recovery was learning to love herself fiercely, and to stop blaming herself.
What happened to her did not have to define her. Suddenly Darcy did not feel so alone.
She began to let go of her guilt and see her part in this tragedy more clearly. As she did, Darcy began tap into a love she hadn’t fully experienced before A love that was not dependent on her good behavior a love that recognized her hurt and shame, and moved her beyond it a love that honored and forgave her. It was God’s love, most fully expressed in the life of Jesus, God’s Son. For the first time in her life, Darcy couldn’t Do It Herself. But this reality opened her to a new possibility. Darcy, a life long Lutheran, began to understand the meaning the word Grace. Brothers and sisters, we are all human. We are limited and make mistakes, some of which we can never make up for. But the resurrection means that God can and does use our limitations and mistakes God works through the most ill fated circumstances And though I would never go so far as to say that God ever wills suffering or violence or death for anyone I do know that God can and does bring good out of terrible circumstances—even death. But in order to experience God’s miraculous power, we need to let go our DIY ways, let God’s ways prevail. In Lent we begin 40 days in the wilderness with Jesus. It is a time of confronting the reality of sin and temptation. It is a time to make an honest appraisal of our lives, and to humbly recognize that we can’t do it ourselves. But when we do this, we find an unexpected gift: Jesus is with us.
We don’t need to do it alone.
Our DIY attempts at faith are over.
We can rely on Jesus’ love and acceptance.
We can count on his resurrection to bring life from the dead places of our lives and the world around us.