Today's Gospel lesson
Back when I was in my thirties, my parents joined the AARP. I should say, my dad started paying for an annual membership so he could get a discount on homeowners' insurance; he actually thought that AARP was part of The Communist Plot, but it was a deal with the devil he was willing to make. (That actually doesn't have much to do with the point of all this, but it's a little ironic, considering.)
Needless to say, about 30 years later when Fellow Traveler bought me an AARP membership as a gag gift for my 50th birthday, I had to work to find the humor in it. Getting significant hotel and insurance discounts dulled the pain a bit, but I have to admit that, month after month, my AARP magazine went directly from post office box to recycling bin.
While there are certainly ways that reach of us can abuse the own power we've been given in our lives, no matter how disempowered we feel or are told we are...to me, in my own life at this stage of the game, when I have my own wilderness moments with Satan, the gentle suggestions I hear whispered in my ear are not appeals to hubris or manipulative use of power; instead, they're messages to not use the power that I have, period; to just give up. Like the old AARP magazine of my youthful memory, these messages tell me that I'm the helpless victim of my own mortality, of various forces inside and outside myself over which I have no control, of antagonistic or exploitative others.
Just give up on Christianity already. Most Christians are anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-intellectual idiots who hate you, and the ones who don't are in denominations that are swirling the drain, and the whole thing is just an increasingly shallow and unsatisfying mess that doesn't enhance your experience of living. I struggle with that one a lot, even though wilful ignorance, political bloviating, misogyny and homophobia are not things I generally experience on a day-to-day level in my own denomination or faith community. But these tropes are so pervasive in American popular Christian culture that you yourself can move in the most intellectually lively, woman-affirming, gay-friendly Christian circles around and still feel at times like packing it in: "You know, it's been fun and all, and you're good folks, but I just can't do this anymore. So long; thanks for Bach and all the potlucks."
So far the Holy Spirit has always managed to show up in the midst of these soul-bruising, endless-loop internal conversations, like the disability advocates who picketed Washington with signs reading, "NOT DEAD YET." S/he can be ornery, that one. And she seems to be teaching me, slowly, to be ornery too; to stand up for myself, to make choices instead of making no choice, to defy the voice of Satan disguised as common wisdom and listen for real Wisdom instead. And that is my takeaway from our Gospel lesson, too; not a meek and mild Jesus, but a strong and engaged Jesus giving the devil his due -- which is to say, nothing. I want to be like that when I grow up.