Wilderness and Lent
Felicity O’Brien, March 1 2012. All rights reserved. PDF
There are several things that strike me in today’s readings. The first is the line from our Epistle reading – that after Jesus died he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison. That was during the days between his death and resurrection and it refers to the souls of those who died when they did not heed God’s call to Noah. I think that line is tremendously reassuring – even though God’s judgment was against the people of Noah’s time, Christ loved them and cared for them and proclaimed the good news to them.
What can that mean for us? Perhaps this can be taken to refer to our loved ones who have died, the ones that were not walking with God on this earth. Christ’s love and care is fro everyone, even those who have died without accepting him, and just as he made a proclamation to those who had died in Noah’s day, that same proclamation is for everyone, in any age. They are not neglected.
In our Gospel reading, we hear of Jesus’ baptism, and God’s public affirmation of him – this is my Beloved Son: with you I am well pleased. But then immediately he is driven out into the wilderness.
Have you ever been in the wilderness? I don’t mean the desert country like that in Judea, I mean that time when God seems far away, and faith seems to make no sense. I know I have. Jesus too was in the wilderness, tempted by Satan. Now just before he went there God had affirmed him – maybe this sustained him, and maybe when we are going through those times of wilderness and doubt, we can be sustained by remembering when God sustained us, by a word, a scripture verse, a sense of God’s immediacy.
The wilderness time was hard for Jesus, and the other gospel accounts tell of a 40 day fast. This was the origin of the season we are in now, Lent, which is why I am wearing a purple stole. A 40 day fast is not very practical or desirable although some people do it, but this time of Lent, in the Anglican Church is a time of thinking deeply about what it means that Jesus had to go to the cross, and our response to it. It is an intensive time to let ourselves be nourished with God.
After Jesus came out of the wilderness, he started proclaiming the Good news –
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news”.
This can be an example for us – after going through a wilderness time, we will be renewed and invigorated to proclaim the good news. Lent can be our wilderness time, and if we’ve looked ahead to the end of the book, we know what will happen after the 40 days – the resurrection of Jesus, the best of Good news – we will be able to proclaim it once again.