First Week of Lent: 40 Days

This week, we begin our first full week of Lent. To find out more about Lent, go here. We begin each week with a reflection that includes scriptures and prayers that can be used daily as meditation and devotion. The three of us are also doing this Lent calendar and will be posting on how our “fasts” connect to the weeks readings.

jesus-in-wilderness-stanley-spencerAfter Jesus’ baptism, Jesus begins his ministry with a trip to the desert. Before the miracles and hearings and teachings, he fasts for 40 days. Jesus is actually led by the Spirit to be tempted and to fast. He choses the wilderness rather than avoids it. He has to confront certain things in order to be renewed, strengthened and transformed. He enters into difficulty rather than avoids it. He confronts the temptation of power. He confronts the desire for material goods. He confronts the use of his gifts for himself.

Lent is a time to reflect this journey. We join Jesus in the 40 days. We must enter into difficult things in order to be transformed. And we allow this difficulty to shape us. We confront the things in our hearts which we leave unexposed to the light of Christ. We confront the ways we use or strive to gain power. We confront our materialism. We confront our tendency to use our blessings only for ourselves.

And the goal is to come out the other side renewed and transformed. Jesus only needed one trip to the desert. Lent is a reminder to us that we constantly fail and are given the grace to try again.

The three of us are doing a calendar (linked above) together. We are going to share how these practices and “fasts” do these things for us. But this week we want to share some of the ups and downs we have had with Lent. We hope our experiences can be helpful as you taking on this renewing, rewarding, but difficult journey.

Scriptures

Luke 4:1-13

Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry.

Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’”

Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please.  I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”

Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you.  And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”

Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’” When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you as a special possession and you have conquered it and settled there, put some of the first produce from each crop you harvest into a basket and bring it to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored. Go to the priest in charge at that time and say to him, ‘With this gift I acknowledge to the Lord your God that I have entered the land he swore to our ancestors he would give us.’  The priest will then take the basket from your hand and set it before the altar of the Lord your God.

“You must then say in the presence of the Lord your God, ‘My ancestor Jacob was a wandering Aramean who went to live as a foreigner in Egypt. His family arrived few in number, but in Egypt they became a large and mighty nation.  When the Egyptians oppressed and humiliated us by making us their slaves, we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors. He heard our cries and saw our hardship, toil, and oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and powerful arm, with overwhelming terror, and with miraculous signs and wonders.  He brought us to this place and gave us this land flowing with milk and honey!  And now, O Lord, I have brought you the first portion of the harvest you have given me from the ground.’ Then place the produce before the Lord your God, and bow to the ground in worship before him.  Afterward you may go and celebrate because of all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household. Remember to include the Levites and the foreigners living among you in the celebration.

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.

If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.
They will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
You will trample upon lions and cobras;
    you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”

Romans 10:8-13

In fact, it says, “The message is very close at hand, it is on your lips and in your heart.” And that message is the very message about faith that we preach:  If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Prayer

Almighty God,
You led your Son to the desert.
You gave him strength to resist temptation.
Give us the same strength. 
You know our weaknesses,
You know the things we need to let go of,
You know the way we are trapped.
Give us your Spirit to see these things and transform us,
So that we may proclaim your good news with courage.
Amen

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