Lent - Lessons From the Wilderness

This Sunday, we will wrap up our series on GROW. My hope has been that we have grown in our knowledge of the nature of God (Father, Son, Spirit) being a divine and eternal community that we are invited into. We experience God more fully when we experience God within a community of diverse believers. These relationships are not just being in proximity to one another but to engage in genuine relationships where everyone has something to receive and everyone has something to offer. Through knowing God more fully in genuine relationships with one another, worship naturally pours out of us. We are then changed by the presence of God and become more like the people God created us to be. We continue in this cycle of Gathering, Receiving, Offering, and Worshipping. It is never ending till the full presence of God becomes our reality in the Resurrection. 

This is why the resurrection is so foundational to Christian faith. We are not waiting for our souls to be released from our bodies to go sit in a “heavenly existence” (location of heaven). That was never God’s intention. That was Plato’s teaching. God created the world perfect, sin broke it, God is redeeming it through Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is the first taste of what is coming (1 Cor 15), not just for our redemption but also for the redemption of this whole creation (Rom 8). Throughout different parts of the NT, the writers talk about the Christian life being lived out as a resurrected life. This is often called living in the “already but not yet.” We already have the resurrection, but we don’t have it fully. This is what Paul is talking about in 1 Cor 13:8-13, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

This brings me to the practice of Lent, which begins on March 6 with Ash Wednesday and ends with the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection on Easter, April 21. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday to remind us that we still live in the brokenness of a world in need of redemption. Lent ends with a celebration of the one who redeems the world through resurrection. Lent, as a practice, reminds us of who we are called to be as Christ’s ambassadors to bring redemption to a broken world (2 Cor. 5). We align our lives with the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Lent is focused on the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness after his baptism and before starting his ministry. These 40 days of fasting and praying helped center his focus on who he is as the Son of God and what his ministry is as the Messiah. Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus continually going off to solitary places for the purpose of prayer. In short, prayer should shape our lives and center us in our reality of being daughters and sons of God. Lent isn’t just about giving something up as an act of repentance or sacrifice. Lent is about re-centering your life, reminding yourself of who you are and who God is. 

 If you ever stop to count how many days that is, you’ll see that there are more than 40 days. There are six Sundays in Lent before Easter Sunday. On these Sundays, it you partake of whatever it is that you chose to give up for Lent. The idea is that on Sunday, the day of resurrection, you taste that the Lord is good. The other six days, when you are neglecting what you have given up, you are reminded of the brokenness of the world around you. Sunday, you are reminded that you are to partner with Christ in bringing redemption to the world. How beautiful of a practice this is when it is connected to the continual reminder of who we are to be in the world as Christ’s ambassadors?! How much sweeter does chocolate taste when it is pointing to how good the resurrection will be when God makes everything perfect again in Jesus Christ?!

There is a longing inside each of us for redemption. Each day we are reminded that while we have the Holy Spirit inside of us, we still await fullness (2 Cor. 5). Because we are people who have been reconciled to God, and continue to be reconciled, we also participate with God in bringing about reconciliation to the world around us. The Season of Lent is a season of remembering what God is doing in this broken world through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

Through the season of Lent, our sermons will focus on lessons we learn from the wilderness. We will focus on Jesus’ time in the wilderness and how that connects with Israel’s time in the wilderness. Take some time to read Matthew 4:1-11 (along with the passages mentioned above) and reflect on what the temptations say about Jesus’ identity and our identity as the people of God. No matter how great you think this world, or even this country is, it pales in comparison of what God intends for it to be when the resurrection comes. Till that day comes, we will continually face temptations that threaten our identity as daughters and sons of God. 

 Further Study: Take some time to sit and reflect on Romans 5, 2 Corinthians 5, 1 Corinthians 15, and Revelation 21:1-8; 21:22-22:5. What do these passages say about the Resurrection? What will be resurrected? How will our resurrection be like Christ’s resurrection? How have we already received the resurrection? Have we received it fully? What is God’s end game? How does all of this matter for how we live today?