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Lent Reflections @ CEC: First Sunday of Lent

Scripture context:

Matthew 4:1-11

During this season of Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter), we are taking an opportunity to be challenged as we read a genre of writing that we might be less familiar with - the poetry of Wendell Berry. (you can read download it from the link at the bottom of this post)

And I love how such writing paints a picture in our minds as we read.

When I read today's poem, I imagined my "tasks lying in their places, asleep like cattle." (Except that, unlike cattle, they will stay just where I left them. They will not wake up and wander off.)The tasks will be there whenever I come back to them. Imagining tasks that are still allows us to think of other things - and perhaps thoughts we would prefer not to think. As Berry puts it, things that we fear and things that fear us. And it seems that our song is woven together with the song of all things that we fear and that fear us. It feels like a restful rhythm of ebb and flow, moving in and out.

The passage today in Matthew 4:1-11 is sometimes called the Temptation of Jesus, and it is often said that this was a time of preparation for Jesus. (as if the previous 30 years were not?) And the season called Lent is meant to signify the 40 days and 40 nights of Jesus in the wilderness.

Make bread now. Test God now - do this thing God never asked you to do. Worship something else now. I once heard someone ask a "bible-answer man" on the radio (that tells you how old I am!) if Satan could read our thoughts. His answer? He doesn't need to. He knows humanity. Our weaknesses and pain points are evident. In this world, we will all struggle with fear, anxiety, worry about the future. The one who slanders God, the Satan, the accuser, ALWAYS has the goal of getting humanity to question God - to question His goodness, His care, His ability to protect, His justice. The very first question in the garden of Eden: "Did God really say?...."

And in this passage, the question isn't spoken but implied. "Hey Jesus, did God really say you shouldn't just provide for yourself?" "Hey Jesus, did God really say to worship him and him alone?" "Hey Jesus, did God really say He would be your protector?" The answers seem so obvious to us ... and yet, Satan tries the same tactics with us.

In Luke ( the parallel story), this story ends with: And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee."

I wonder why we often look at our own wilderness experiences as punishment and not preparation. Like Jesus, what if we return from our own wilderness experiences prepared for whatever God has for us - full of the power of the Holy Spirit because we have been in the wilderness with God. Every wilderness moment has the capacity to teach us something if we're willing to sit - face what we fear and what fears us. We often aren't even sure just what God is doing in those times but we can trust that He's up to something.

Be encouraged! God is at work, using our wilderness moments to refine us, to make us more like Jesus, to prepare us to go out into our world to reflect the compassion and grace of Jesus.

Karen Callis

lent booklet (2)
Download PDF • 2.32MB

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