Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread." Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone.'" Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, "To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.'" Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'" Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'" Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Today is the first Sunday in Lent, a season of the church in which we prepare for Easter. Technically Lent started this past week, on Ash Wednesday. At this time of year, you will often hear church people say what they are giving up for Lent. On my newsfeed this year I've seen people going on social media fasts, trying to reduce their use of single-use plastic, and of course, the classic giving up chocolate.
Many years ago a pastor of mine gave a sermon at the beginning of Lent that stuck with me. He said that while giving something up can be an important step in a spiritual journey, often it's not quite as important as what we take on. He talked about allowing Lent to be a time when we make more room for God in our lives. He encouraged us to really think about what our Lenten discipline meant for our relationship with God, and not to let it be just a stick by which we try to measure our holiness or worth.
If you are giving up chocolate, think about why. Is it just because you think it might help you lose a few pounds? If you are giving up social media, think about why. What will you do with all the time you now have on your hands since you are no longer scrolling Instagram or Facebook? If you are giving up plastic, think about why. I happen to think that one has some pretty easy spiritual applications, after all, God called us to be stewards of this earth.
Whatever you do for Lent, make sure you do it with intention. Make sure you do it with heart, and with the goal of getting closer to God. This time of wandering in the wilderness has a purpose.
Loving and merciful God, when we feel we are wandering, lost, help to remind us that you are with us. We pray that this season of Lent might be a time of focus, that your will might become more clear in our lives. Help us to see you. Amen.