Into the wilderness of Lent…
- The Rev. Grady "Buddy" Crawford
- Feb 24, 2015
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Into the wilderness of Lent…
For me the most prominent image of Lent is that of a wilderness. Maybe it is because the gospel on the first Sunday of Lent focuses on Jesus’ baptism and his forty days of testing and temptation. Or maybe it is because in my hometown parish we sang the hymn, “Forty Days and Forty Nights” – in a dirge-like manner – every single Sunday of Lent.
“Forty days and forty nights thou wast fasting in the wild; forty days and forty nights tempted, and yet undefiled.”
The word wilderness stirs up for me images of rocky places, of land that is difficult to traverse, risky places inhabited by wild animals, and open expanses that are inhospitable and desolate. For me Lent will likely always be a time of entering the lonely places of quiet introspection that can feel like a desert.
A prominent image of wilderness is found in the Exodus. Freed from Egyptian bondage the Israelites journeyed with Moses through the wilderness to reach the land of promise. While filled with hope at the prospect of inhabiting their own land, the difficult journey caused many to yearn for the familiar, for life back in Egypt. Even though returning would mean a life of slavery. Even though God promised to be with them, visibly present in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night. But at times the familiar habits and routines of our lives hold us captive from entering a new way of being with God.
Lent provides a time to begin a journey with a promise of strengthening our relationship with God. We don’t always know the exact route we will follow. But we make the journey with the hope of finding time to pray; to read, mark, and learn the scriptures; to seek a deeper knowledge of God. Lent is a time when we let go of the things that hinder our encounters with God - to die. Lenten practices can become challenging and when they do we may want to return to our former ways.
Jesus is driven into the wilderness to face temptations to show us his reliance on God. If we get weary in our discipleship, we can draw strength from his example. And like the Israelites who Moses leads from bondage to freedom we too have a promise. Jesus has sent us the gift of the Holy Spirit, a constant abiding presence that leads us ever deeper into the heart of God. There is another promise that is central to our Christian faith. That death is not final; it is only a new beginning in the nearer presence of God. Hang on to these promises as you journey through Lent.
O God with us as pillar of fire and cloud,
You bring light to the night,
And give us shade from the burning sun:
Guide and protect us on our Lenten journey,
That we might learn to wholly trust in you as
Your pilgrim people,
This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
-The Rev. Buddy Crawford-