The season of Lent, a period of introspection, self-examination and spiritual renewal for many Christians, above all requires honesty on the part of those who observe the season in the weeks before Easter.
Its 40 days are an intentional reminder of the 40 days in the wilderness endured by Jesus, who faced the greatest temptations and enticements to deny himself, deny God and follow an easier path. The scriptural narrative leaves no doubt that it was the pivotal episode in Jesus’ life, accepting his role and understanding his humanity and divinity together.
It is the model for Christian examination and self-searching, but it is not the first time people who knew they belonged to God faced temptation.
Presbyterian pastor John Weems reminded his San Francisco congregation March 9 that the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years after the Exodus.
“Along the way, they became frustrated. They were thirsty and hungry and longed for a sense of stability. When their leader – Moses – was off talking to some God they weren’t allowed to see the face of, they took matters into their own hands. They melted gold and created a calf. The Israelites wanted something they could see and touch and pray to. They wanted control.”
People of faith in the 21st century have the same inclination.
The visible and touchable appear to be controllable until something interrupts seeing and feeling, and the emptiness of it all takes hold.
Weems suggests that Lent is best seen through a “Christ-like lens to identify and confront the gods that distract us for God’s purpose for our lives.”
Lent asks all who observe it to “consider what worldly ‘gods’ are calling you,” to use Weems’ words.
Everyone has a god or gods. They’re easy to worship but utterly silent, always asking and taking, and never giving.
Weems said, “In his complete human freedom, Jesus reminded us to make God the focus of our lives. He reminded us that we cannot live by the bread of this world alone. He identified and spurned the gods of this world.”
In that understanding, Jesus provided the example and model for worshipping the one God, who gives, loves unconditionally and responds even before people’s acknowledgment in faith.