Lent: We walk into the gathering danger & doubt surrounding Jesus as he made choices that led to the Cross.
This is a time of preparation & reflection.
Where have you been this year & where might you be going?
What are the things that have kept your journey on pause?
What are the choices you have made that you would like to revisit? A Lenten Collection
Jesus’ Temptation Stones into Bread
Jesus’ Temptation Pinnacle of the Temple
Jesus’ Temptation At the Mountain
This year is very different for me than the last six! It’s been awhile since I was not directly connected to worship involvement, in particular during this Lenten season of preparation and journey. In this new space, I will be travelling throughout Winnipeg, where I get to worship at different churches and congregations. As I was worshipping this last Sunday (at a church called St. Andrew’s River Heights) the Talk or Presentation (Church-ese = Sermon or Reflection), the minister discussed Jesus’ time in the desert. What hooked me during the discussion was the exploration of Jesus’ temptations (Matthew 4.1-11):
Stones into Bread (Lust): The temptation for fame or fortune. To live beyond his own means at the expense of others;
Pinnacle of the Temple (Doubt): To rely on himself, as opposed to trusting in God. In particular, rather than act faithfully – even when in doubt or with questions – Jesus was tempted to test God as a magician who grants wishes; and,
At the Mountain (Power): To believe that that by one’s own actions or efforts, he alone could ‘save the world.’
All of the temptation seem connected with a tension between obedience and disobedience. The danger of ego was glaring to me. As the Talk continued, I admit I heard something that sort of floored me: these temptations were neither static, nor one off: they are constantly in play. And – more specifically – what if we hear them as the temptations with which the institutional church must constantly wrestle? What if we looked into the mirror – those who park our faith journeys in a religious organisation – and actually looked, what would we see?
What I heard was this: we must confront institutional temptation and ask whether our mission in the world has become a two-dimensional faith of kindness! When we are more concerned with being nice, are we living into the radicality that is implicit in Jesus’ confrontation of the human world’s temptations?
I have been musing about this since then … I am not sure that I have arrived at anything definitive, but I do have a few observations, which likely lead to even more questions and images to confront in our mirrors …
Kindness & niceties: I do not think the implication is dismissive of such concepts when they lead to deeper relationships with one another and our faith. I think the temptation is when kindness becomes a reason to not dig, to not name inappropriate behaviour or injustice. When we have stumbled and are unwilling to ask what do we idolatrise, have we fallen into temptation? What (un)conscious choices have/does institutional church make that ends up causing harm or exclusion?
The temptations of Jesus in a desert over the course of 40 days remain a helpful lens for reflection and preparation during the Lenten season. What do they say to us as church? What is our relationship now and previously to authority? Are we able to hear that a saccharine embracing of kindness is unfaithful? Disobedient? If we are able to hear that difficult message, what are we to do? How do we reorient ourselves as we also acknowledge our injustice? How do we – ultimately – celebrate God’s abundance, in order to liberate those with whom our own healing is bound: the Other? The Stranger? The Captives? The Widows and Children who long for liberation that stepping into solidarity might begin …