SOUTH CAROLINA: Identity Theft
THE UNDERGROUND PEWSTER
February 17, 2013
Today's service for the first Sunday in Lent was for the few, the penitent, the brave souls who crossed the icy roads of Rock Hill's first snowfall of the winter to participate in the Great Litany and to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus at the Eucharist.
After hearing Luke's account of the temptations of Christ in Luke 4:1-13, today's sermon focused on identity theft and how the devil might be imagined as attempting to rob Jesus of His identity as the Son of God - something like how our priest's friend had her identity stolen by an on-line hacker.
I was more taken by the devil's crafty way of framing his third temptation.
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. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.' Jesus answered him, 'It is written, "One does not live by bread alone." '
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, 'To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.' Jesus answered him, 'It is written, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him." '
Jesus responds to each temptation with "It is written" and a quotation from the Word. The devil, then attempts to use Jesus' method and twists scripture for his ends,
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, 'If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, "He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you", and "On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone." '
Jesus answered him, 'It is said, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test." ' When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. This is a device the devil uses all the time, using scripture to work an opposite purpose from which it is intended. For his purpose is to steal our souls, and the best way to take one of God's children is to revise the teachings found in the Bible so that we take the wrong path, the path that leads us away from faith in Jesus. (Note: When anyone says the Church "needs to be more relevant" the words the devil is whispering are the same as "Behold all these kingdoms can be yours.")
Look at the confusion people have over what it means to be "Catholic", "Anglican", or "Episcopal". It falls back on this question of identity. Witness also the problems in South Carolina with the Diocese of South Carolina and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina fighting to maintain and establish their identities.
The Anglican Curmudgeon presented an illustration of how the Episcopal Church has lost its identity by straying from its founding principles in yesterday's post, "Adrift at Sea, without Rudder or Compass" One of those ideas was this,
"That no Powers be delegated to a general ecclesiastical Government, except such as cannot conveniently be exercised by the Clergy and Vestries in their respective Congregations." Somewhere along the line, the temptation to hold authority over earthly kingdoms became too great for the Episcopal church, and we have the litigating, controlling monster that we see today.
TEc's Anglican identity was not so much lost as it was stolen. The authority of Scripture was first questioned, then discarded. The Virgin birth became a myth, the Resurrection became a metaphor, The Articles of Religion were relegated to fine print of historical interest only. We are borne aloft and kept from falling, they claim, by virtue of having been baptized. But when the meaning of everything else has been taken away, just what does that baptism mean? In the South we have a saying, "I guess it didn't take" when someone, once baptized, lapses.
The great thief has done his job.
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