Thursday 27 February 2020

And Also With You

I’m know I say this every year but, much like Lent, it bears repeating.

When Jesus goes into the wilderness for forty days - the story that is the foundation of Lent - he does not go alone. Each of the gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke tell the story and each has their own unique details, but they all agree on this much. Jesus is baptized by John and the Spirit appears to descend on him in the shape of a dove. Then, with the Spirit, Jesus goes into the wilderness to fast and pray and be tempted by the devil. Jesus, with the Spirit, refuses to give in to temptation and then Jesus, with the Spirit, heads off into the early days of his ministry. Before the wilderness, in the wilderness and after the wilderness, the Spirit is always with him.

And also with you.

Personally, my take on this story has always been that the point of Jesus going to the wilderness is the same as it is for any of us. The wilderness is a place of discovery, a place set apart from our daily lives where we might take the time for some self-examination, wondering and visioning. A place to figure things out, about who we are, how we are, where we’re going and how we might get there. If you’re giving something up, taking something on, praying more diligently,  or engaging in some form of Lenten practice this year, that should be your goal. Not simply the doing of it, but the why of doing it. Despite the fasting (and, just to be clear, that’s fasting, not starving), the desert terrain and the solitude that might be physically weakening, Jesus comes out of the wilderness spiritually stronger and ready for the journey that’s ahead, not because he was alone, but because the Spirit was with him.

And also with you.

“With” is the key word here, I think. Each of the temptations that the devil offers Jesus in the story is an opportunity to exercise power over the world to meet very human desires: hunger and thirst, physical safety and security, and control of others for our own benefit. But, with the Spirit, he resists, each time citing scripture about the giving of the law. Remember the law was given to build community between people, God and creation and the heart of the law is about love and relationship. It was about the sharing of power, not the exercise of power over others. This is at the heart of Jesus’ ministry, too. Perhaps it was the focus of his time of discovery in the wilderness.

And also with you.

Really. Imagine how different the world could be if we all took a little wilderness time with the Spirit to figure out how we might share love and power as Jesus did. We would share it, not force it. We would look for equity, not advantage. We would listen and learn, not speak from ignorance. We would share our uniqueness and respect it, not hide from it and fear it. We would lift up the weak, not overwhelm them. We would hear the stories of the broken and share in their healing, not try to fix them. This is how Jesus built community with people. And also with you.