Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11
Periodically I like to take a few days of retreat. I often go to a retreat center in Indiana where my Spiritual Director lives and works. I speak with Sister Nancy for about an hour and then I spend the rest of the day in silence. I walk. I sleep. I eat. I pray. I journal. I draw. I spend time alone with God. No cell phones. No books. No internet. No email. No distractions.
The first time I went on retreat I was very nervous. What was I supposed to do? Could I really be alone and quiet for three days or eight days? It was all about me. I have come to really enjoy my retreat time when I can set aside my worries and challenges and duties and just be, a time with no agenda, no one to please, no obligations. It has become a time to rest, a time to reconnect with myself, a time to reconnect with nature and a time to reconnect with God. It is a time to reflect on the bigger picture where I am not stuck in the weeds of daily life, a time to listen and perhaps even hear what God is calling me to. It is a time to reflect on what is working in my life and what is not working. It is a time to reflect on my relationships with my family, my friends, my neighbors and my God, a time to recognize where reconciliation is needed. It is a time to sit on a tree stump and soak in the sun and just be.
I think that is what today’s gospel is about. After Jesus is baptized he is led by the spirit into the wilderness for forty days and forty nights. It was a time for him to reflect on his ministry, to reflect on what it means to be the Son of God, a time to be alone with himself and with God. It was a time for Jesus to reflect on his physical, emotional and spiritual needs. It was a time to reflect on how the basic requirements of life, of how real hunger could distract Him from his mission and ministry. When we find ourselves in survival mode, of meeting our basic needs for food, shelter and safety, it is hard to be open to serving God or our neighbor.
Jesus’ time in the wilderness was a time to reflect on the real temptations of power and fame and prestige and privilege. Jesus’ disciples and the people wanted a great warrior, a knight in shining armor, who would rescue them from the shame and hardships of foreign rulers, who would restore them to the position of a powerful, independent nation. Jesus had to be clear in his own mind of what his mission was and to what God was calling him so that he would not be distracted by the call of other agendas.
The people were looking for another Moses who would stand up to the Romans and demand that the Jewish people be set free, but you will recall that when Moses and the Hebrew people did walk out of Egypt they spent forty years wandering in the desert before they came to the promised land. They had to deal with what it meant to be a free people no longer slaves. They had to reflect on what it meant to be the children of the one true God. They had to learn to trust God for their food and water, for their safety, for their very lives.
It is hard to do that isn’t it; to trust God to supply our basic needs of food, water, clothing, shelter, health and our very lives. Lent is our forty days in the wilderness to reflect on our lives, to reflect on our relationships with our family, friends and neighbors, to reflect on our relationship with God, to reflect on what it means to be a beloved child of God, to reflect on what it means to love God with all our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Lent is a time to reflect on what it means to be a sinner in need of the grace and mercy of God and our neighbors, of our need for repentance and reconciliation. Lent is a time to reflect on the fact that we are a forgiven people, to reflect on the fact that in our baptism we died to sin and our old way of life and that we were raised to new life through Jesus Christ. Lent is a time to reflect on the fact that just as we are forgiven so we are called to forgive. Lent is a time to acknowledge our own personal sin and the sins of our community, to confess our sins, to receive forgiveness from God and our neighbor and a time to live in the joy of a clean heart and conscience. Lent is a time to reflect on how our awareness of our own forgiveness has changed our lives in how we respond to our self, to our neighbor and to our God. Amen.