First Week of Lent
Lent is a strange season in which we are invited to remember our weakness and our frailty. We are to somehow embrace that we aren’t the center of the universe. What’s more, we are to also embrace that we make mistakes, we let people down, we hurt and get hurt – and then we die. Yeah! Lent, found in the doldrums of winter, feels like another kick in an already depressing time! Why on earth would we want to wade through 40 days of rehearsing our failure and mortality?
But God, through scripture, tells us that’s what we need to hear in order to be whole. Really? Why is God such a downer? None of this is what we want to hear. But there is both truth and grace in this fact. Because, the sooner we stop living like we are in charge, or like we have to be perfect, or like we never get hurt, or somehow, like we are immortal, we can begin to face what we are and what we are made for.
Beginning at the beginning, we see Satan wants us to think we can have it our way. Adam and Eve are tempted to take the fruit God forbid them to eat so that they too could know good and evil. They bite. But so too does King David – and often. We know about Bathsheba, but there’s also this story in 1 Chronicles about David wanting to know the size of his kingdom. A lot of people get hurt when David starts thinking about his kingdom and not God’s.
So, what does God have in mind for creation? How do we get away from our navel gazing? In Deuteronomy, God instructs the Hebrew people to always remember that God provides. God provided them a land flowing with milk and honey. In order to avoid confusion as to how they wound up in Canaan, they are instructed to recite their history morning, day, and night. And to always give their best - their first fruits - to God.
Jesus faced temptation too. How did Jesus handle temptation? During Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness, which Lent is based, he was tempted to meet his most basic needs (turn a stone to bread) to rule the world, and to show off his divinity. Even in a weak state, Jesus resisted. Why? Jesus was fully human (Philippians 2). Because he was human, Jesus had to give every ounce of control over to God. It was the only way Jesus, being human, could resist. The only way to truly embrace his humanity was to fully trust and rely on God – even when it was in his power to do otherwise.
This is our dilemma, too. In most of our temptations, we are lured to use things or people within our influence for our benefit. When tempted, we run the risk of becoming the center, instead of trusting in the truth – that God is. What a sad state we find ourselves. But what good news that Easter, at the end of our Lenten journey holds: We, who are sinful, prideful, and finite have a God whose infinite love for us found in Jesus provides us an alternative ending that we could never create on our own. We become whole when we let go.
Like the liturgy of the Hebrews, may Lent help us live fully into an alternative narrative. May we be thankful we are not the ones in control.
Grace and peace along the journey,
First Sunday in Lent – February 14
Prepare: Find a place where distractions are minimal. Bring a journal or notepad, pen and Bible with you. Then, take three deep breaths. Straighten your posture. Cup your hands toward the ceiling, as if receiving something from God.
Use a sentence prayer to center you, such as: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, o Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 or “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Read: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. If time allows, read at least one different translation.
Meditate: What words or phrases strike you? Read them again and pause in silence.
What might God be saying to me through this scripture? Write down anything you sense God might be saying to you.
Pray: Write a one-sentence prayer – your prayer to God – lifting what you have read and what you have listed to God for healing, fullness, and insight.
Response: What am I being called to do as a result of the word I have been given?