Here we are at the beginning of a new liturgical season. During this season, the Christian tradition is to fast from something that might distract us from walking more closely with Jesus. The tradition is derived from the story of the temptation of Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew teaches that after His baptism in the Jordan River, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where He fasted for forty days and forty nights and afterward was famished. At the end of that time of fasting and prayer, the Devil came to tempt Jesus away from following God, but Jesus withstood the temptation.
I know the tradition, and I understand it. My question relates to the interpretation of this story of Jesus. What does that story mean for us today? If we are called to be imitators of Jesus, does this story indicate that we must go out into the wilderness for our own forty day experiences? If we are honest, Jesus did lots of things that we choose not to imitate in our lives.
Traditions matter. The lived relationships of the Christian with the Christ they try to follow also matter. I think we have missed the mark in our interpretation of this story in which Jesus begins his ministry because we often focus more on Jesus’ action in this story than we do on His motivation for doing the action. Jesus was motivated by the Spirit to go out into the wilderness and to spend forty days and forty nights praying and fasting. The Spirit compelled Him to do this before beginning His challenging ministry. We all have a ministry to carry out in the world. So, perhaps the real question we must ask ourselves is, during this season, what does the Holy Spirit compel me to do?
As I begin this season, I consider the Communion table. This Sunday during worship, I will stand behind a Communion table and assist with the Lord’s Supper. It is what I do every First Sunday at my church. But, what we so often miss about Communion is that communion with Jesus is something that followers of Christ must live. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul teaches The Church about Communion. They were abusing the Lord’s Supper. Not everyone was given an equal amount when they came to the table. Communion is indeed about the broken bread that represents Christ’s broken body. Communion is also about the cup of wine which represents the spilled blood of Jesus. Yet, more importantly than either of those things, communion is about the people of God getting together around a shared table to remember Jesus.
During this Lenten season, my commitment is to take the necessary time to remember Jesus. Our lives are full of so much information. There are so many demands on our time. During this season will you choose to take a daily break to remember? My commitment is to decide to listen to and to follow the commands of the Holy Spirit over my life. My commitment is to live a life and to preach a Gospel that reminds us that all are welcome here, that there is grace here, that there is mercy here, that there is honesty here, that there is perfect freedom here. Come, let us remember. Blessings to you during this Lenten season.