Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Step Into the Wilderness

Luke 4:1-13 (NRSV)
The Temptation of Jesus
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”
Then the devil[a] led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil[b] said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
    and serve only him.’”
Then the devil[c] took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    to protect you,’
11 and
‘On their hands they will bear you up,
    so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent and a time to turn inward, examining ourselves from the inside out for these next 40 days and nights (not counting Sunday).  But now that we got our ashes and have begun this journey of introspection, it's now time to step into the wilderness.  Coming this Sunday, our Gospel lesson from Luke talks about Jesus's own journey into the wilderness following his baptism in the River Jordan.  The wilderness is one of those rich metaphors, full of many possibilities, yet the wilderness oftentimes gets such a bad rap.  Perhaps because the wilderness is oftentimes so desolate, devoid of the necessities of life with a bleak landscape.  During Jesus's 40 days in the wilderness, he was faced with many temptations by the Devil.  That crafty Devil tried in every way possible to trick Jesus, but to no avail.   
Even amidst the temptations, the wilderness is not always what we think it is.  The wilderness can be part of our faith journey without even stepping foot into an isolated place.  Last year, a group of us from Wesley spent ten days in the wilderness of Pine Ridge, South Day.  It literally was wilderness,complete with a stark landscape filled with extreme poverty among those who lived in it.  Sometimes, the wilderness is necessary to open our eyes and transform us.  But at the same time, the Wilderness is not a bad thing.  Four years ago when I was beginning my discernment of seminary and ministry, Pastor Tina preached about the wilderness and her own time in seminary being like the wilderness.  But what stood out in the message was that the wilderness can be a time of seeing yourself in a new light and getting to know yourself in new ways.  Following worship, Pastor Tina said she hoped I was paying attention and it has stuck with me since.  While I have definitely gotten to know myself in new and exciting ways, I also still have a lot to grow on, as I'm sure all of us feel that way at one time or another.  So perhaps it is time again for a trip to the wilderness, a time to face temptations, a time to form disciplines, and a time to see ourselves and know ourselves in a new light.  What is on your mind as you step into the wilderness?  

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