Today is Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, or whatever you want to call the day before Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, and Lent is key to what I want to talk about today.
In those churches that use the Revised Common Lectionary the Gospel lesson for the first Sunday in Lent is Matthew 4:1-11. This is the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. And one of the things he’s tempted with is being given all the world if he’ll just bow down and worship the evil one.
Jesus refuses and tells him to begone. I want you to hold onto that thought for a bit because we’ll come back to it after I tell you another Bible story.
This one comes from the book of Isaiah, from the Hebrew Scriptures, and is about how King Cyrus of Persia was annointed by God to end the Babylonian exile, and send the Jews back to Israel to restore the kingdom. Even though he wasn’t one of them, and even though he didn’t worship their God, he was widely praised for having restored the kingdom to Israel.
And of course, someone who restores your kingdom to you, with all the power a glory you had before is worthy of praise, aren’t they? As is someone who promises to restore the kingdom to you as you knew it...or thought you knew it, right?
And this is exactly why 81% of Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in the last election. Notice I didn’t say 81% of Christians, but 81% of Evangelicals...because they felt that he had promised to “restore the kingdom” to them. They felt that he had promised to deliver to them the power to put “real Christians” back in charge, “real Christians” who would stand up and defeat the LGBTQs, the people who were pro-choice (which is not the same as pro-abortion), and the people who believed in science rather than the Bible...to name a few. And they even went so far as to say that they believed that they were dealing with a Cyrus, who, while not one of them, was chosen by God to give them back what was rightfully theirs.
But there were two things they didn’t realize.
The first was that they weren’t dealing with a Cyrus, who gave them back the kingdom with no expectations of anything back, but with the evil one who expected to be worshiped, and who Jesus told to begone. And they figured that having the kingdom, as they understood it, restored was worth the price of making a deal with the evil one. They saw it as a good thing brought about by evil means.
Do I really need to say anything about that?
The second is that they didn’t realize that their idea of restoring...or bringing about...the kingdom may have been very different from what Jesus had in mind.
But that wouldn’t have been the first time that happened.
Jesus constantly confounded many of his followers, as well as the Jewish authorities, whose expectations of a messiah were of someone who would lead them to kick some Roman butt, and “restore the kingdom”...that is to say restore it to its “glory days.” And yet, in thinking about a little biblical history, one has to wonder if there really were any “glory days.” Seems that God was always getting after them for one failing or another, and that if there were any glory days, they lasted for about a week and a half before they screwed up again.
But Jesus didn’t come to “restore the kingdom”, he came to bring the kingdom...a kingdom that was much different from what the anti-Roman zealots and the temple authorities had in mind.
And perhaps much different from what the modern day Pharisees and Zealots among at least 81% of Evangelicals have in mind.
It sure would be nice if we all came out of not only Lent, but through November, having soundly decided to reject the evil one and all his empty promises.
 One of the baptismal and confirmation vows used in the Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, and other liturgical churches