The last temptation was power
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Wednesday, February 24th: Psalm 77; Proverbs 30:1-9; and Matthew 4:1-11. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
This evening at 7:00pm is the first talk in our 24th annual Lenten Discussion Series. The discussion will be led by Rev. James Koyama, the pastor of the Montague Congregational Church, UCC. His chosen topic is “Snow on the Deerfield River: Reflecting on Idols.”
Rev. Koyama is also the one who suggested this year’s general theme of “Even the cherry blossom falls.” This is a Japanese proverb that urges us to cherish the fleeting beauty that we may encounter for but a moment. Take notice of the blessings of the moment and then cherish them after they have passed. Don’t dwell on their loss; concentrate on the gift that they are.
A gift that was taken from us this past Friday was Sister Dianna Ortiz. She was an American nun who chose to serve in Guatemala during an extremely violent and savage period. She continued to teach indigenous Mayan children even after receiving repeated threats to her safety and life. Helping these children to learn was judged subversive.
She was kidnapped, gang raped and tortured by men supported by the ruling military government, which in turn was supported by Sister Ortiz’s own government, the United States of America. She escaped miraculously and returned to our country, and here waged an incessant battle against state-sponsored violence.
If all of this were not enough pain for one life, she died this past Friday in hospice care in Washington, D.C. She was only 62. The cause was cancer. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/20/us/dianna-ortiz-dead.html
According to Matthew, Jesus’ last temptation is worldly power. Satan had left his most enticing offer for last. Rather than be a Saviour who would struggle against the powers of the world Jesus was tempted to save by becoming THE power in the world.
Power is an alluring temptation and even Jesus realized it was too dangerous to try and control. What hope would simple humans have to control it? “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men...”
Thank God for the fleeting beauty and blessing of Dianna Ortiz who stood up to such power. A devoted follower of Christ, she cared for the outcasts and the forgotten, and she faced down the bruteness of uncontrolled power that saw such kindness as an evil. There is comfort in the hope of her continuing life in heaven, and inspiration in her example. May we, like Jesus and like Sister Ortiz, continue to find the courage and conviction in our faith to speak truth to power.
If you’d like, here is the link to the Massachusetts Conference’s daily reading schedule: www.macucc.org/lectionary.
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