The season of Lent comes to our lives every springtime. Lent is the promise of new life in nature following the drabness of winter. Life in the middle of the season of winter can be through of in terms of the season of Lent. I think of it this way – it’s brutally cold outside and the earth is frozen stiff. Slowly the days are lengthening and with any luck, the air tempture will warm. Creation speaks of the promise of new life in the midst of the stone cold winter days. Yet, even in this cold season, there is beauty to be found. Photos of winter can be strikingly beautiful. The snow we had a few weeks ago that hung around in the trees created a majestic, albeit, messy portrait of the season of Lent.
So, Lent has a church season goes way back in the life of the church. I was reading on Wikipedia the other day that Lent as a church season begin in the 7thcentury as a period of 40 days to coincide with the time Jesus spent in the wilderness following his baptism by John in the river Jordan.
Pope Gregory said, “Lent is our spiritual tithing.” It is the in the church in which prepare for the joy of the promised new life in the season of Easter. In past centuries, Easter was the time for converts to be baptized. These new Christians were called upon to pray, fast and repent of their sins in the weeks before Easter.
“Baptism,” said Martin Luther, “… signifies that the old Adam in us is to be drowned by … repentance.”
And so it seems most appropriate that we being this first Sunday in Lent with Mark’s gospel account of the baptism of Jesus. There are two events in the account that are significant. The first is the Mark’s baptism account and the awesomeness of the heavens opening up and the Spirit descending upon Jesus. But there is a second side to this story. It’s the temptation account of Jesus and Mark doesn’t waste any time in transitioning us from the baptism straight into the wilderness. The Bible says that it was the Spirit that drove Jesus out into the wilderness where he would face temptation. Is that interesting? The spirit driving Jesus to the wilderness where by implication of the word, things are wild.
In the biblical thought, the wilderness is the place of demons and the things being a bit unsafe. Scripture records that Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days. Of course, 40 is a Biblical number recalling the long 40 days of Noah’s desolate and lonely experience in the ark, the long struggle of Israel in the wilderness for 40 years.
The wilderness was a point of temptation and demons. Jesus faces temptation by the devil and he was with the wild beasts. Temptation is part of our human condition. All the way back in the story of Adam and Eve, the Bible mentions temptation as part what it means to be human. Stuggle with temptioant are part of our everyday life experience. We all face temptation of some sort.
So, when we think about temptation in the broad biblical sense, it’s not about sin, but the bible seems to make the point that temptation is rather about a test for those who have been called. When God acts in our lives to call us by the gospel of Christ and enlighten us with God’s grace and gifts, be ready to be faced with some sort of temptation.
As I think about temptation and how to define it – maybe its more about an exposure to new possibilities of good, of growth, and spiritual maturity, or temptation can be about an exposure to evil, of self-seeking, and failure.
The Bible makes it clear that temptation is a tool of the devil. And the devil will use all kinds of cleaver schemes to tempt us. None of us are immune from the tempting power of evil and darkness. This temptation story reminds us that the devil doesn’t have to destroy you. He only needs to distract you. Lent reminds us to keep our focus on the things of God and how easy it is to get distracted by the devil and all the forces in the world that defy God’s purpose and plan. Remember how easy it is to give the devil a commercial by the way others perceieve our actions. The devil is at well at work in the world. Don’t get caught up in the evil and don’t let the devil make a commercial out of your actions.
Like Jesus being driven into the wilderness following his spiritual experience in baptism. I want you to think of your own wilderness experiences as a tool that may indeed be from God, now the drive and desire that one has to sin is not from God but of our own, and it is Bible makes a point that when we give into sin and temptation it is fatal.
So these spiritual wilderness that are universal to us all can become for us an opportunity to challenge ourselves and grow from the experience in which we find us utterly trusting on God’s grace in the face of crisis – or a long fall into darkness. The stumbling block of the wilderness can either become for us an opportunity for a stepping stone or a stone that makes us stumble and fall deeper into a pit.
Notice what happens immediately after Jesus immerges from the wilderness. The first thing Mark tells us is that the one who baptized him, John the Baptist, was arrested and then the text moves on saying that Jesus continued his ministry of sharing the good news – “the kingdom of God has drawn near, repent and believe the good news!
The kingdom of God means just that – that the kingdom of this world is designed for the benefit and glory of God and that God shall reign forever. Repent in this sense means that we should turn away from our defeat, our despair, and shame and face the Son who has replaced the “Nos” of our life with God’s “Yes, you can.”
Sisters and brothers – The gospel of the kingdom will prevail with our without us. Lent calls us to follow our Lord on the wilderness road to the foot of the cross. As we pray together, sing together, laugh and cry together, let us do so united by love. The gospel of Christ calls us to believe again and turn away from the temptation that suggest, “God’s not real, nor can God be found in the wilderness of life.” For now we know that if God is for us in the wilderness, then who can be against us? The wilderness too has been redeemed and God’s tamed the wild-ness we face. Thanks be to God that the wicked foe will have no power over us. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.