During this period, where we are unable to meet together in church, Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday 14th June 2020.
My theme for today is Temptation!
Every time we say the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God not to lead us into temptation. It might be more appropriate to ask God to give us the strength to resist temptation.
Temptations can range from, on the one hand, something fairly harmless (like, ‘Shall I have just one more piece of cake’, when you know your body could do without the extra calories) to, on the other hand, a temptation to do something unlawful. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies when temptation raises it head within us. The danger is, if you allow one small temptation to get its foot in the door, where do you stop. Here’s a story I found this week in a book entitled ‘Complete Quotes and Anecdotes’.
An Arab fable tells of a miller who was startled by seeing a camel’s nose thrust in at the window of a room where he was sleeping. ‘It is very cold outside’, said the camel. ‘I only want to get my nose in.’ The nose was allowed in, then the neck, finally the whole body. Soon the miller began to be inconvenienced by such an ungainly companion in a room not large enough for both. ‘If you are inconvenienced,’ said the camel, ‘you may leave; as for myself, I shall stay where I am.’ ‘Give but an inch,’ says Lancelot Andrewes, ‘and the devil will take an ell [an old unit of measurement equivalent to a cubit – the length of a forearm]; if he can get in but an arm, he will make shift to shove in his whole body. As we see, if the point of a nail have once made entry, the rest will soon be in.’ [Lancelot Andrews was successively Bishop of Ely, Bishop of Chichester and Dean of Westminster in the early 17th century. He was involved in the preparation of the King James Bible.]
The most difficult kind of temptation, I think, is when it involves someone else. Have you ever been tempted by someone else to do something against your own inclination or better judgment and then afterwards regretted it. I have! The problem is that you may feel that your friend will be offended or hurt if you don’t do what he or she asks. And you would feel bad about upsetting a friend. If you actually do what the friend asks you to do, then subsequent regrets can hurt you for a long time. It can be a lose-lose situation.
Alternatively, the temptation can just be from within you. You want to do something that, if you are honest to yourself, you ought not to be doing, but it is difficult to resist. How do you cope with such temptation. Here’s how one man used to cope with temptation. Some of you reading this will know that I included this little story in a sermon some time ago, but I think it is relevant enough to bear repeating.
A Victorian priest of Holy Trinity Brighton, the Rev. Frederick William Robertson, was regarded as one of the finest preachers of his day. There is a story that a tradesman in the town had a little shop, and in the back of the shop he kept a photograph of Robertson, whom the trader regarded as his hero and inspiration. If the tradesman ever felt tempted to carry out a bit of sharp practice, he would nip into the back room and look at the photograph of Robertson, and the temptation would pass!
When temptation strikes us, the decisions we make are, more often than not, selfish ones. The recent easing of the restrictions put in place as a result of the current pandemic has meant that some people (thankfully a small minority) have been tempted to take it as carte blanche to do what they like, flouting the regulations so that they can meet all their friends again in public and in private, without complying with the continuing social distancing rules. They are more concerned about their own desires than the national desire to protect people and win the battle against the coronavirus.
But to return to my main theme, we all need to find our own ways of coping with temptation. The 19th century Baptist minister, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, suggested that if we keep ourselves busy, we are less likely to suffer from temptations: ‘Some temptations come to the industrious, but all temptations attack the idle’.
One (fictitious) lady found her own way of dealing with temptation (but Ladies, I am not recommending that you adopt this course of action!) in a poem by Hilaire Belloc:
The Devil, having nothing else to do,
Went to tempt My Lady Poltagrue.
My Lady, tempted by a private whim,
To his extreme annoyance, tempted him.
I hope you will be tempted to join me for Evening Prayer, according to the Book of Common Prayer, via Zoom, at 6.00pm on Sunday evening. Our virtual congregation increases week by week. Last Sunday there were 26 of us. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you would like me to send you a link and password.
The Peace of the Lord be always with you.