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Daily Devotional • December 4

David Baumann
Cakes and Candy
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 7:28-35

28 “I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John, yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” 29 (And all the people who heard this, including the tax collectors, acknowledged the justice of God, having been baptized with John’s baptism. 30 But the Pharisees and the experts in the law, not having been baptized by him, rejected God’s purpose for themselves.)
31 “To what, then, will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
    we wailed, and you did not weep.’
33 “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’; 34 the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”

In T. H. White’s lovely book, The Sword in the Stone, about the child Arthur who will become king, there is an episode in which Arthur must retrieve an artifact from an enchanted house. The artifact is in the highest story. He is firmly commanded not to eat anything in the house when he enters it. As Arthur goes through the rooms and ascends from one floor to another, he is relentlessly tempted by supernatural appearances that shove one delectable dish at him after another: amazing candy, cakes, frothy drinks, aromatic concoctions, and the like. The child is never left undisturbed. 
It is a wonderful passage and highly entertaining — and yet it also affirms a profound, sobering truth. It is a parable of the life of a Christian serious about following and pleasing God. The Bible is filled, cover to cover, with such tales. The temptation of Eve; Joshua’s command to the Israelites, “Choose this day whom you will serve”; Jesus’ teaching, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me”; etc. etc.
Throughout all ages, followers of Jesus are confronted with temptations to turn away from God and follow idols of many kinds: sexual impurity, a love of power over others, a desire not to be unpopular, overeating or overdrinking, storing up grudges, clutching one’s assets as a primary source of security, justifying oneself no matter what, etc. etc. 
In today’s lesson, “the Pharisees and experts in religious law” reject God’s plan for them, since accepting John’s baptism would require a complete change from a life they found compellingly satisfying. What people clutch can be anything. Temptations are with us always, but also Jesus says, “I am with you always.”

David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.

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Today we pray for:

The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, McKinney, Texas
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