Story: The Untempted ‘Apapane

February 26, 2023

Psalm 32
Matthew 4:1-11

I think you may have heard the story I’m not telling, the one about when the Tempter tried to tempt Jesus. He challenged him to turn stones into bread because Jesus was hungry, and Jesus said, “No.” He challenged him to prove he was the Messiah by jumping off the Temple roof, and Jesus said, “No.” He challenged him to rule the nations of the world by worshiping him, that is, Jesus worshiping the Tempter, and Jesus said, “No.” Then the Tempter went away.

But I’m not telling you that story.

I’m telling you what happened next, which is that the Tempter was angry and fed up and feeling like a failure. What do people do when they need a break? That’s right. They go on vacation in Hawai’i.

I promise you that most of the visitors aren’t angry Tempters.

But the Tempter walked the koa and ohi’a forests and tried to feel better about things, which wasn’t working. One of the problems with being a Tempter is that you never really do find peace inside yourself. So he decided that instead of peace, he’d find success. He’d tempt something, and this time he’d win.

He went searching, and he found an ‘apapane.

“’Apapane,” he said, “have I got a deal for you. I will give you the power to turn these stones into bread. Just do that, and you’ll never worry about being hungry ever again.” The Tempter demonstrated by turning some lava rock into bread. The scent rose into the air.

The ‘apapane gave it a sniff, and then flew a short distance to an ohi’a tree, where he sniffed at the nectar from a bright red blossom. He gave it a taste.

“No, thank you,” he said. “I’ll stick to nectar.”

The Tempter was very disappointed with this, but not ready to quit. He brought the ‘apapane to the top of the highest tree in the forest. “All you have to do is prove that God takes care of all God’s creatures,” the Tempter said. “Throw yourself down from this tree, and let the angels catch you.”

The ‘apapane looked at the ground far below, stretched out his wings, and flew. “I think I’ve got that one covered already,” he said.

The Tempter realized that this temptation had been a bad mistake, and he was rattled. Still, he was undaunted. He was going to have a success. This time he swept the ‘apapane all the way to the summit of Mauna Kea, and there he showed the bird all the nations and forests and mountains of the world. “Worship me,” said the Tempter, “and all of this will be yours.”

The ‘apapane shivered in the cold, and pecked experimentally at a small bug on a rock. “I’d rather live in the ohi’a forest,” he said. “It’s warmer and things taste better there.”

At that the Tempter gave up, both on tempting an ‘apapane and on his Hawaiian vacation. I believe he went to sulk in Antarctica, where there’s a lot of empty space to sulk in.

The ‘apapane went back to the forest and, when other birds asked him about his adventure, simply said, “I just chose to be myself, to enjoy my life and its nectar. It’s not really much of a temptation to be something or someone else than myself.”

If you’re tempted, friends, choose to be yourself, the best and truest self you can be. Send the Tempter sulking to Antarctica.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

I write the story. I tell the story. In the telling, there are departures from the writing.

Photo of an ‘apapane in flight by Eric Anderson.

Tempted; Deceived

Of course I’d be out-crafted
by the crafty in the absence
of the knowledge, of the wisdom,
to discern what’s right and wrong.

Of course I’d be deceived
by a deceiver in my
ignorance of good and bad,
of lawful and unlawful acts.

Of course I’d take the way that ends
my ignorance, my foolishness,
my childishness, my folly.
Wouldn’t anyone?

I’ll take that fruit and share.

I’ll also wish I’d thought,
in all my quest for wisdom, that
perhaps the One who loves me best
might ache at my betrayal.

A poem/prayer based on Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading for Year A, First Sunday in Lent.

The image is Eve Tempted by the Serpent by William Blake – Victoria and Albert Museum, Public Domain,

Messiah’s Temptations

Cliff edge on Hawai’i Island

I’m hungry, but…
I know that I’ll find bread
a step or two away.

I’m arrogant, but…
I can’t be sure
I’ll rule the world
any better than Satan.

(Isn’t that a kick in the head?)

I’m courageous, but…
I’m hardly likely to
accept this gracious offer
for a heavenly bungie jump .

(At least not without a harness
and a springy cord.)

They may have tempted you, Messiah,
but they don’t do much for me.

So I guess I’ll live in gratitude
you could resist the miracle,
the earthly power, the heady taste
of Godliness – and give yourself to me.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 4:1-13, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year C, First Sunday in Lent.

Photo by Eric Anderson.