Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
While many people often think of Lent as a time of personal sacrifice, my pre-Lenten reading and preparation had turned me toward a focus on growth and seeking. In the five days before the start to the Lenten season, two young people who were fairly new, but important parts, of my life died unexpectedly. Whether I had planned it or not, those deaths and the following grief, forced me into a mood of seeking and growing.
The Gospel passage in Luke provides the traditional framework for Lent: Christ spending forty days in the desert, fasting and focusing on the work of God with the Holy Spirit. Christ gave up food and the comforts of home to spend the time hungry and exposed. The devil thought he picked the best possible time to tempt Jesus – the end of the forty days. He perceived Jesus’s hunger as the key to vulnerability. He could not have been more wrong. Jesus had spent forty days in close communion with God and the Holy Spirit; he may never have been stronger and more resilient to temptation.
The Psalms and Romans passages promise us protection from evil, scourges, natural dangers, and shame. They make life sound like a stroll through Candyland, yet, the two deaths in five days lead me to ask; why then do we have hardship? The best way I understand this is to consider it in eternal versus temporal terms. When God makes a promise it is assured that the promise will be kept: it will be kept in God’s time. It may not be fulfilled in human time. We will be protected for eternity, but we may indeed face difficulty in our lifetime. The difficulties we do face though will not destroy our faith or our connection to God. We may question why things happen, but eventually we find peace from God.
During the Lenten season struggle is permitted. The time we spend working out and building up our spiritual muscle is as important as the things we give up. Lent is not meant to be easy, but it allows us a unique time to grow spiritually. As we go through the forty days of seeking and growing in fellowship with God and the Holy Spirit, may we, like Christ, come out of the struggle stronger than coming into it.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org