I used to belong to a peer group, where we would talk about our struggles and our successes.  One thing that we all had in common, was a feeling of inadequacy for what we felt called to do.  I can still rustle up a good case of “imposters syndrome” fairly easily.  I am aware of my many weaknesses as a priest, or as a person really.  Being married to a guy who is scary bright really doesn’t help matters much.  Getting into that comparison game is spiritually dangerous.  Once any of us starts down that path, the only place to go is further into the muck.  What I remember about my peer group, is that someone said that Satan is the great tempter; temptation isn’t just about addictions or sinfully pleasant behavior, but temptation can also begin to sow the seeds of doubt in us, which can be just as harmful.  I’m sure we have all heard that voice in our heads that says, “you aren’t smart enough, good enough, pretty enough, to accomplish that.  That person over there is much smarter, better, prettier, than you are.  They can do it better.”  The thing that is so frustrating about that kind of temptation, is that it is easy to fall into.  I find for myself, once I forget who I am and who Jesus is… I fall into the trap of thinking I am not good enough to do what I have been called to do.

But see, here’s the thing: there’s a sense in which none of us ARE good enough to be disciples, none of us are good enough to bear the good news into the world.  However, there is a catch there… We are good enough, not because of anything we are or anything we have done; we are good enough because we belong to Jesus.

That’s a pretty big identity there.  When we can remember that it is by HIS goodness and HIS merit that we are called, we can relax a little.  It is Jesus’ gift of his Holy and life giving Spirit that moves in us, prays within us, and helps us to achieve kingdom goals.  We cannot do it on our own, and because of the power of the Spirit, we can do those things that are difficult to do.  The call to discipleship is to DENY ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him, all the way to his death on Golgatha.  He doesn’t say, “go to school and get smarter, go on a diet, make more money… none of that is a prerequisite for being a disciple.  We have to deny the temptations, those things that are earthly and pleasing, as well as the negative temptations that say, “nah, you got the wrong dude” and instead, rely on the gift of the Spirit to have the strength and the knowledge that we have been called by Jesus to be in this kingdom work together.  The thing that  trips us up is that it isn’t a very glamorous call.  No one really wants to carry a cross.  Who can blame Peter for rebuking Jesus.  I’m sure he was afraid and couldn’t really hear what Jesus was asking him to do.  It is a far fetched story that just gets worse.  Peter has always been pretty honest about his shortcomings, but here, Jesus’ rebuke is truly harsh.  Peter not only is tempted himself to ward off this future of death that Jesus is laying out for the disciples, but in his lack of trust and courage, he becomes the tempter, offering Jesus a way out; and Jesus calls him on it and makes it absolutely clear that thoughts of trying to escape his fate would not be tolerated.  Peter takes on the role of Satan, the great tempter who tempted Jesus in the wilderness, and in Peter, tries again to knock Jesus off of his game.  Jesus knows the tricks.  He knows the lies.  He knows who he is, and to whom he belongs, and how that knowledge directs him towards kingdom goals, no matter how difficult they are.  Choosing to take the easy way out would only benefit him; he knows that his purpose is much bigger than that, and he tells his followers the same thing; we must all give up our lives, those lives that are tempted in all sorts of ways, and we must die to the ways of the world in order to live in God.  It’s not an easy task; we are being asked to live in the shadow of the cross, but in God’s way of turning everything around, that which is darkest becomes filled with light.  Our mortal deaths are not to be feared, but seen as a gateway into eternal life.

Trusting in God isn’t always easy.  There are many places in scripture where God’s people are tempted to believe in themselves over God.  Abraham certainly lied and cheated, and Sarah didn’t believe in the promise of a son.  Yet even so, God was faithful as God has always been, when God’s human partners could not be.

Lent is a time for us to simplify and to listen; to wait and to prepare.  We will hear Jesus’ call to us to follow him.  I pray that each of us will remember who we are, who God in Jesus is, and to whom we belong so that the temptation to say “you’ve got the wrong guy” may be overcome.  If we follow him to where he leads, we will take on his strength as our own.  In the kingdom of God, it is in absolute surrendering that we become absolutely whole.

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.