Lent IC’22
6 March 2022
Luke 4.1-13
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone <+>

For he shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone. Amen. – Psalm 91.11-12

The season of Lent begins each year on Ash Wednesday with the symbol of ashes – the elements of our composition and decomposition. It begins at the intersection of our limited human perspective and God’s divine perspective that sees through circumstances and calls us each to see our lives through the lens of faith.

So, I’ve got a proposal to offer you this morning, and it’s based on a quote that comes from a very unlikely source, a 13th cen. Persian poet called Rumi. The quote is this: “Live as if life is rigged in your favor.” We may ask ‘is it really?’ We may say, ‘I’m not so sure about that!’ Now for the proposal: “Live as if life is rigged in your favor, because life is rigged in your favor.”

There are certainly arguments that can be made against this proposal and one of them goes all the way back to the cradle. One of the many contributions of Sigmund Freud to the modern world was his observation that humans are governed by certain instinctual drives. One of these he called “the Pleasure Principle” it’s a simple one and is immediately observable. From birth we have an instinct to avoid pain and seek pleasure. [1] When we experienced the discomfort of hunger we cried until we were fed and we experienced pleasure. When we soiled our diapers, we cried until the diaper was changed to a fresh clean one, and we experienced pleasure. Based upon this early information we learned that there is pain in life and we made it our mission to avoid pain, but as we grew, we discovered that pain was at times unavoidable.

Another argument against the proposal that “life is rigged in our favor” is the evidence of our own life experiences that appear to be full of dead ends, wrong turns, and yes – pain! But what Freud did not understand with his pleasure principle was that there is also a God who created a “Faith principle!” This principle operates on a higher level than the material realm, and knows there is a God that sees beyond mere circumstances and is working on our behalf, behind them.

Today we hear the story of Jesus’ forty-day trial in the valley of desert temptation. Something that can flow right passed us is the opening sentence: “After his baptism, Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.”[2] Woah! Stop the car! Did I just hear what I think I heard: Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted for forty days? Would God intentionally lead his own Son in the wrong direction, into the path of destruction? What on earth is happening here? This is certainly not going to fulfill the pleasure principle, and flies in the face of Jesus’ experience of anything good!

One philosopher noted that “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”[3] With our 20/20 vision we can look in the rear-view mirror and see that God through these hard tests was getting Jesus ready for his life’s mission to bring about the salvation of the world. Jesus, on the other hand, was having to live his life forwards through a desert valley where he would face the Achilles heel of his soul and of ours, the temptation to take back the control of his life from God and turn to his own resources to make things happen his own way. In this desert valley Jesus had to make a decision about how he was going to live his life from this point forward, would it be to follow God’s will with faithful trust or follow his own will by taking matters into his own hands and to try and survive as best he could.

Jesus also had a choice to make about what to believe about what he was going through: Since this desert experience was leading him away from pleasure and comfort was it because he had made a mistake or was, he smack dab in the middle of a Divine ambush where God had life rigged in his favor? I’m not saying that a favorable outcome was guaranteed, I believe Jesus really did have a choice and he could have chosen his own will rather than God’s. He could have chosen to believe that he had been forsaken or he could choose to believe that he was being given a great gift.

He learned the value of suffering the only way you can – by going through suffering and coming out on the other side. He learned by facing his demons that the devil was a defeated foe, He learned that his heavenly Father had his back and was ‘watching his 6!’ None of this would he have known had he clung to the pleasure principle, or to his own resources.

My friends, in the season of Lent, Jesus’ story becomes our story. Rather than running away from our problems, we are being given an invitation to take an intentional step into the hot breath of the desert to face our demons.

I believe God is inviting those of us who call St. Luke’s our spiritual home, to live our lives not by the pleasure principle or by our own experiential knowledge and resources, but to live as though life really is rigged in our favor and that his purpose is to do us good.

Author Richard Kronick shines light on the perspective of living by the faith principle:

Everything is here to benefit you. Every single event and experience, no matter how seemingly insignificant is backed by a friendly universe, guiding you down the speediest course to a better, happier and more complete life. 

If something in your life is not yet okay, it simply means it is not yet over. And as you go through it, settle comfortably into a sense of gratitude, knowing that not only will the fires of your pain dissipate, but they will also burn away defilements and purify you, leaving a better you in its place.”

Storm-battered souls, wherever you may be on your life’s journey, know this: The game of life is rigged in your favor…”[4]


[1]  Snyder, C. R.; Lopez, Shane J, Positive Psychology. Sage Publications, Inc. (2007) p. 147

[2] Luke 4.1 NRSV

[3] Kierkegaard, Soren

[4] Kronick, Richard, THE BLOG (huffingtonpost.com)Life Is Rigged in Your Favor” 10/02/2015