To the People of the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church, and to the ends of the earth, Fulfilling our charge to “To guard, transmit, teach, and proclaim … the apostolic faith as it is expressed in Scripture and tradition, and … to interpret that faith evangelically and prophetically” (BOD, 2016, ¶ 414.3), the bishops in the Western Jurisdiction will offer messages of faith each week of Lent, with the prayer that God will strengthen the Church for its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'” – Matthew 4:8

Some of you may have had experiences being around local or national politicians.  I’ve had my share of these experiences, and not all of them are bad, but mostly, it is an interesting experience in power dynamics.  Politicians are usually surrounded by a lot of people who want something from them, and they act and behave accordingly.  To put it crassly, there is a lot of “sucking up” type behavior.  Personally, I can’t stand that behavior, but it is something you must endure when you attend political events.

In the Matthew passage, Satan is using this same type of power game that seduces so many around politicians and people in power.  Satan believes he can tempt Jesus by offering worldly power and influence.  But Jesus is too grounded in God…too deep into an understanding of power…too sharp for Satan to ever tempt.  Jesus knows that only God has the power that Satan bandies about, and it is false idols and power that Satan possesses.

I have come to believe that our politicians deal in the same type of false idols and power, and that real power comes from the grass roots – from the people themselves who must allot power to their elected officials, not the other way around.  Wherever you stand with our current presidential administration, we the people must decide the course of our nation, not the President, congress or the judicial system.  If we are not happy with the direction of our nation we must take a stand, act, and work for the change we seek.

I have also come to believe that the fate of our nation and the world is not in the hands of our politicians, but in God’s power and directive.  We must not be seduced by the earthly power that Satan speaks to, but put our faith and hope in the one God who created the cosmos and rules supreme.

This Lenten season, Satan tempts all of us like Jesus, and we must decide whom to follow.  Will we have the strength to turn away from earthly power and put our whole trust in God?

PRAYER:  Almighty God: Created of the cosmos and all that is:  may you give us the strength to turn away from earthly power and influence, and embrace you as the only source of truth and life.  May we worship and serve You and only You.   Amen.

Bishop Grant J. Hagiya, California-Pacific Conference