Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, marking (if you will) the advent of Lent. For Lent this year my church, along with Christ Church United Methodist and the Healing Place, has published a book of Lenten devotionals. In it there are 40 readings, one for each of the 40 days of Lent. Each reading was written by someone from one of the three groups (4th Ave UMC, Christ Church UMC, and the Healing Place).
As you can probably guess, I agreed to write one of the devotionals. I had a hard time with it, because I don't usually write anything short, nor do I often write with a devotional focus. Nothing about the daily reading format plays to my strengths. That said, with more than a little bit of fear and trepidation (perfectly appropriate for this season, by the way), here is my devotional piece, 40 Days:
Scripture Reading: Matthew 4:1-4, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4: 1-4
After the Spirit (literally Breath) of God descends on Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan, he is immediately sent into the wilderness for forty days. Forty is a significant number in the Bible. After their Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites wander in the wilderness for forty days, living off the bread that rained down from heaven.
In this Gospel story, Jesus symbolically retraces the steps of ancient Israel, being led by God into the wilderness for forty days. Luke states overtly what Matthew and Mark imply, that Jesus “ate nothing at all during those days.” Just before facing his first time of trial, Jesus fasts.
In his fast Jesus, like ancient Israel wandering in the wilderness, depends on God for his food, for his strength. And, while Jesus does not eat anything, he feasts on the presence of God, and that spiritual feast prepares him for his first time of trial.
In Lent we retrace these steps of Jesus, just as he retraced the steps of ancient Israel. We do more than remember the days he spent fasting in the wilderness preparing both for temptation and for his coming mission; we relive them.
This Lenten season, may our fast – whatever form it takes – remind us that we depend totally on God for our nourishment and strength. And, may we, through our fast of preparation, become more like our Christ.
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