Finding Our Place in the Story
As most of us know, Lent is intended to be a somewhat literal rehearsal of Jesus’s 40-day ordeal in the desert. The Gospels tell us after his baptism the Spirit drives him into the wilderness to confront the tempter. It’s a grueling experience, but not just because of physical and social deprivation. Jesus’s enemy, the devil, knows what buttons need pushing to break him down. He’s left the Jordan with some bold claims as John the Baptist’s successor, the Promised One of Israel, and God’s beloved Son. And Jesus’s spiritual adversary meets with a series of soul-flaying taunts that question his identity and loyalty to God: “If you are the Son of God…” “If you worship me…”
This is tough stuff, the kind of experience we’d rather not emulate. First, it may not strike us as a particularly healthy—fasting, praying, setting ourselves up for tests we’ll likely fail. Second, it’s not very clear what we get from this exercise, outside of feeling guilty and apologizing to God and promising—hoping—we’ll do better next time.
We may be missing an important piece of the puzzle, something that doesn’t get talked about too often, but something the Early Christians immediately caught. Jesus’s experience was not unique. It was never meant to be unique. In fact, Jesus’s wilderness trial was, and is, supposed to be viewed as typical of anyone whose true identity and calling has been revealed. All through scripture we see this trope. When you discover who you are and accept it, you go into the desert to find out what you’re supposed to do next.
The Hebrew Bible flows with one wilderness crossing after another. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the Hebrew slaves, Joshua, Ruth and Naomi, David, Elijah, Elisha, the Babylonian exiles (to name the more famous few) cross harsh and barren places after they realize who they are and the work they’ve been given. Of course, Jesus goes into the wilderness. Of course, his identity is questioned. Of course, his commitments are tested. That’s how this works!
Lent is not just about self-discipline and deprivation. While we talk a great deal about confronting weaknesses and sinful impulses, it’s not only about that. It’s about more than embracing vulnerability. Lent is about finding our place in this story, being driven into the wild like Jesus and his ancestors and knowing the reason. It’s about realizing who God calls us to be and going in search of clarity that defines our purpose. It’s about accepting who we really are so we can live truthfully and effectively.
Sit with that for a bit. It will inspire and guide your wilderness adventure. Promise.
Travel with us as we join a long line of Christian mistakes in our quest for clarity in the Lenten wilderness. We meet for Bible study each Thursday evening at 7:30pm CT and we’ll come together in our only Lenten worship experience this Sunday, March 8, at 7pm CT. You can join us live at Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake Street, Oak Park, IL. Or if you’re joining from a distance, meet with us via Facebook Live.
We need your help!
As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!
Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea
As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.