Welcome to the Wilderness
Lent is forty days long (not counting Sundays) because the ancient Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years and Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days. Wilderness connotes a barren and fearful place. The Hebrews confronted starvation, thirst and near-revolt, while Jesus was tempted by Satan while in the wilderness. These were not wilderness excursions intended to build character, but real survival challenges that defined who they would be.
Symbolically we travel through the wilderness during Lent as we fast, pray and reflect on how to deepen our spiritual journey. This year, more than most, it feels like I am not only in a symbolic spiritual desert, but an actual wilderness that is full of fear and teeters on the collapse of hope. This wilderness is our American culture that tolerates, and, even, worships the culture of guns. The school murders in Parkland, Florida, boggle the mind as yet another mass shooting by a young man as our politicians sit by and do nothing. The continual impotence of our national leaders, the ease of access to military-style weapons (even by teenagers) and a society that struggles to respond to troubled individuals make this feel like a wilderness. Not just a political or cultural wilderness, but a spiritual one as well. One that touches our very souls.
So this week I have been praying for the victim's families to have strength in the face of this crushing grief and our society to find a way out of this wilderness. Not the kind of prayer that tries to hand off responsibility to God, but prayer that leads to action. I call for prayer as a first step in effective change. We should not raise anything to God that we do not take seriously enough to do something about ourselves. Prayer does not excuse action, it should instead inspire and, even, drive us to action. To the kind of life-affirming and politics-changing action our country needs.
Jesus was able to overcome temptation and the Israelites overcame their wilderness pain with God's guidance. During Lent may we find where God is guiding us out of the wilderness. The path out will only appear if we make it happen.
I hope you will join me on Sunday as we kick-off our Lenten series on spiritual practices. We all need the power of prayerful action more than ever.
See you in church,