Readings for the First Sunday in Lent:
The Spirit and the Wilderness
Lent comes to us as gift that we would seldom purchase. Most of us have aversions to wandering, to solitude, and to self-denial. It is in these places that we often come face to face with the demons in our lives and to avoid them we press on, keep moving, consume more.
Yet the wisdom of the early church and the work of the Spirit meet us in this place and call us into the wilderness. Though most of us are not preparing for Baptism, there is a profound humility in taking time to reflect and prepare to receive anew the hope of our faith.
Ironically, we do not find this hope of liberation in our experiences of success or the Enlightenment notion of inevitable progress. We do not find it in what we possess. Rather there is something in our surrender to the Spirit’s leading and in moments where we are more mindful of God that puts us back in touch with the created order of things.
There is a deep connection here. The Spirit leads Jesus to the wilderness in our Gospel lesson and never leaves him. Today, when we loose touch with the Spirit it may take an encounter with the wilderness to remind us of God’s presence. The image below comes from such a time in my own journey. I was traveling the country and my companion had to return home after the end of a long-term relationship. I found myself alone and so drove North on the Pacific Coast Highway, unsure of what lay ahead. What I found was a profound experience of my small statue before the very large God of the Redwoods. Yet somehow as I was amongst those trees I felt at home and knew that we shared a common hope. I was connected.
What is important here is that we are never alone on this journey. Yet we must be intentional through our practices about remembering this. We are a part of a web that we did not create that is with us even amidst the wilderness. May God’s Spirit move among us in this season helping us to sense our connection as we wait in hope.
For Ash Wednesday we invited you into traditional practices of Almsgiving, Prayer and Fasting to help us prepare for Easter. We hope you have had the opportunity to choose a practice that you will sustain during this season. Each week however, we will offer a few additional practices that you might take on for a shorter length of time. May these be suggestions of how you can draw closer to God and to creation during this season.
A Sabbath Walk in the Woods
Consider making some time this week to take a walk in the literal wilderness that is around us. Go for a hike in Percy Warner Park and listen to the birds and sit for some time in silence. If that journey is too far (9 miles from campus or so) consider making some time to go to the “edge of the wilderness” and find a quiet spot on campus to spend a few minutes outside. Listen for how you hear and experience God when you can sit apart from the pace of life. What sense of connectedness do you long for?
As you move through this week we invite you to keep the spirit of this prayer in mind. May it serve to remind us that we are indeed connected, even to and in the wilderness of life.
A Prayer for the Wonders in Nature
Thank you God,
for the sand and the stars,
for the oceans and the mountains,
for all the living creatures
whose spirit is somehow connected to my own.
Thank you for the forests and the flowers,
for the fertile soil
and the power to grow.
Thank you for life’s rhythms,
the seasons and the phases of the moon,
for the sky above me,
and the soul within me.
Thank you God for placing me
in a world so vast and majestic.
Everywhere I turn I see a sign
that leads me straight to You. Amen.
~ Rabbi Naomi Levy, from her book, Talking to God
Authored by Eric Burton-Krieger on behalf of Eco-Concerns