First Sunday of Lent
1 Peter 3.18–22
The season of Lent invites us to join Jesus in the wilderness. To do so, we have to understand what this means.
Wilderness, in modern parlance, can mean many things – in extreme cases, people face trials and are confronted with questions about their own identity. Cheryl Strayed’s story in “Wild” (book and film) tells such a story.
For the people of Israel, the wilderness was a place where transformation would take place, where God had formed the people under Moses’ leadership.
For Jesus, the wilderness was a place where he would be shaped and formed after his baptism to become the one God needed him to be. To do this, he had to be open to hear the voice of God, away from distractions. He was alone, and he was not so much tempted, as we tend to trivialise the word, as tested to the limit.
Lent is a season in which we are invited to join Jesus in the wilderness process of allowing ourselves to be shaped; to confront our temptations, drawing parallels between ways in which self-denial points us towards the larger tests of life; to search for our own identities as beloved children of God.
Jesus was strong enough to survive and be shaped through the wilderness alone. While we may benefit from times of solitude as opportunities to be free from distraction, we are also invited to see ourselves, collectively, as the body of Christ, in companionship with others. We don’t have to do all of this on our own.
We may each engage with the wilderness in our own way. But there are three foundational elements. First, to allow ourselves deep and honest self-reflection for repentance (recognise – regret – reorient). Secondly, to focus through prayer to listen for God’s voice, in God’s time. Thirdly, to act, to put the Gospel into action.
In Lent, we can confront the demons of darkness and despair, and name the promise that there is a place of love and acceptance.