Welcome to Goshen College’s online devotionals for the 2015 Lent season! Our theme this year, taken from the Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada worship resources found in Leader magazine, is “Upside Down and Inside Out.” Every Monday an author will introduce the sub-theme, and on the following weekdays authors will reflect on a specific Scripture passage. The theme for this week, Lent 1, is “You are the God of my salvation.”
In the early centuries, Lent was primarily a time for Christian converts to make their final, intensive preparation for baptism. It is still a season of renewal through reflection on the life of Jesus, and then especially during Holy Week on his suffering and sacrifice. The 40 days of Lent remind us of Jesus’s time in the wilderness. Matthew and Luke indicate that Jesus was “led” by the Spirit, whereas Mark uses the dramatic verb “drove.” Matthew and Luke say that Jesus was “famished” after not eating anything during that time; Mark is silent about this. All three Gospels indicate that the devil or Satan tempted Jesus.
I do not know what it is like to fast from food for 40 days. A mentor of mine engaged in a series of 14 to 30-plus day fasts over a period of years in response to God’s healing in his life. The best that I did was several three to five day fasts. Though the hunger pangs subsided and I was a bit “light-headed” at times, I was not “famished.” I have, however, been “emotionally wiped out,” and recognize when I am more prone to temptation or falling short of my ideals. I wonder what it was like for Jesus to be hungry, alone in the wilderness (except for the wild beasts), and then face temptation? How would I have responded in that situation?
But one part of this story that I find most interesting is that Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit. Mark says it more forcefully that the Spirit drove Jesus there! Somehow I missed the whole “being driven into the wilderness” as one of the fruits of the Spirit that Paul addresses in Galatians. I wonder what that was all about. Nevertheless, am I able to confess that God is my salvation when I find myself in those famished moments? When I have been led where I otherwise would not want to be? As I set out on these forty days of Lent, may I be reminded every day that God indeed is my salvation, even when I feel upside down and inside out.
God of my salvation, guide me in the paths of what you require, granting me mercy and patience when I feel famished from life’s realities. Amen.