Temptation in the Wilderness (2)

The penthouse suite with world-commanding views

So we come, in this Lenten sonnet sequence, to the second of the ‘temptations in the wilderness’ (I am following the order set out in Luke’s Gospel Chapter 4: verses 1-13).

This is the temptation to worldliness, to ‘success’, money and power set up obsessively on the throne of our hearts as rivals to God. It is the supreme temptation of our own materially obsessed culture. And it is our failure at this point that has led to the gross imbalances between the 1% and the 99%, against  which the Occupy movement are understandably protesting. ‘All this power I will give thee…’ is the dreadfully conditional offer that the devil still makes, and in my sonnet I have tried to flesh out in contemporary terms some of the figures who seem to be making and receiving that offer now.

The photo of 5th Avenue above was taken by Margot Krebs Neal and the compelling and disturbing fusion of sand and money in the image below was taken by her son Oliver. Of course the  tower of glass above is only made from the sands of the desert below and to sand it will eventually return.

You can hear the sonnet by clicking on the play button or the title.

All the Kingdoms of the World


‘So here’s the deal and this is what you get:

The penthouse suite with world-commanding views,

The banker’s bonus and the private jet

Control and ownership of all the news

An ‘in’ to that exclusive one percent,

Who know the score, who really run the show

With interest on every penny lent 

And sweeteners for cronies in the know.

A straight arrangement between me and you

No hell below or heaven high above

You just admit it, and give me my due

And wake up from this foolish dream of love…’

But Jesus laughed, ‘You are not what you seem.

Love is the waking life, you are the dream.’

So here's the deal, and this is what you get


Filed under imagination, Poems

7 responses to “Temptation in the Wilderness (2)

  1. Diane Arnson Svarlien

    Excellent poem and photographs.

  2. Charles Twombly

    Thankful for those waking moments, brief though they often seem. “Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.”

  3. Charles Twombly

    Wonderful poem, Malcolm. Much for me to think about.

    Like the way Matthew’s gospel makes this second temptation number three and (by implication) matches up Satan’s offer, “All these [kingdoms] I will give you,” with the closing words of the gospel, “All power has been given me in heaven and on earth……” (Luke’s account adds something: Satan’s claim to have been given all authority, a note only implied in Matthew.)

    Like the way Matthew’s lead-in to the temptation story hints at the vicarious nature of our Lord’s temptation (“on our behalf”), especially when paired with the Lord’s Prayer. “Then Jesus was LED up by the SPIRIT to be TEMPTED by the DEVIL……….LEAD us not into TEMPTATION, but deliver us from the EVIL ONE.” God allowed Jesus to be led into the territory of temptation so that we wouldn’t have to go there ourselves.

  4. ‘Love is the waking life, you are the dream.’ Beautiful Malcolm. Lots to think about…….

  5. Pingback: Temptation in the Wired Wilderness: A Sonnet - Hieropraxis | Hieropraxis

  6. Absolutely brilliant. Thank you.

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