Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lent V...The First Sunday

Into the wilderness is where the gospel lectionary lessons always take us on the first Sunday in Lent.  Each of the three first three gospel writers record this event which comes immediately after the baptism of Jesus at the Jordan River.  In the wilderness story there is a strange meeting of the Holy Spirit and Satan, temptations and spiritual disciplines, and Jesus.  The Scripture tells us Jesus is led by the Spirit into a season of fasting and prayer where He is tempted by Satan to take a short cut to accomplishing the desires of His heart without going to the cross. 
It is a temptation we all face.  We often read the passage and see only the particulars of the three temptations which enables us to dismiss the whole story as something which has no relevance to our personal struggle.  But, when we begin to understand how Jesus was tempted to take the short route instead of the long journey; the easy way instead of the hard way; and the premise that the end justifies the means, we start seeing ourselves in the picture.  These are our temptations.  We may not be tempted to turn stone into bread, or test God's protection when we jump off a high building, or live in such a way as to have power and authority over many, but still we are tempted to do good things for the wrong reasons.  We are tempted by the subtle siren of expediency.  We are tempted to take matters in our hands just in case God is not able to deliver what He has promised.
If Lent is truly a time of self-examination and reflection as well as a time of penitence, then this lesson certainly gives us much to put on the table of prayerful meditation.  It is one of those lessons that calls us to ask some hard questions about our own spiritual life.  Reading about the wilderness experience of Jesus can be done in such a way that we never feel the heat of the sun or the thirst or the tempting power of Satan.  Or, we can choose to linger in its Word with questions to God about the purity of our own heart.

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