Biblical Text: Matthew 4:1-11
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness…
How do you prepare for a new job, new ministry, or new church?
Jesus' preparation for his public ministry was something else. After having been baptized by John and blessed by the Holy Spirit, Jesus went to the wilderness alone to pray and fast. There is something powerful in spiritual journey that begins with solitude, prayer and fasting.
The tempter came at Jesus' most vulnerable moment: extremely hungry, thirsty and tired in forty days and forty nights in the wilderness. Waves of temptation came, preluded by "If you are the Son of God…" turning stones into bread (create miracle to prove to me who you are); do the unnatural (angels will save you anyway); and idolatry (worship me and all these worldly treasures and power are yours). Both Jesus and the tempter quoted the Scriptures. The former for truth, the latter for his own motive. When we read the Holy Scriptures, we are careful to align our reading with God's good purpose in our lives and creation.
People do not live by bread alone, but by the word of God, the Scriptures says. Bread, rice and jobs are important, but they do not define who we are as people of God. Jesus, the Bread of Life, comes to us and show us the Way, the Truth and Life. But the powers-that be-of his time did not like Jesus' way, so they got rid of him. At Lent, we reflect on what is essential and what is not.
God's mission is about holistic salvation; material food and security as well as spiritual nourishment; abundant life and reconciliation; health and peace with justice. Authentic living is not about frenzied consumption, absolute power and privilege, but about living out the Gospel and the reign of God daily and collectively.
Suggested Question for the Group: The tempter, at times, is inside of us. What kind of temptation you struggled within your life recently?
Or, How has the Scripture guided your ethics and decision making?
This lent, in solitude and in a group, confess your sin and shortcomings to God and neighbor. To flaunt one's privilege and exercise power over people is misuse of God's blessing. Gandhi once said, "If I have two coats and my neighbor has none, I am a thief."
Fast from indifference, prejudice, or any form of idolatry. Feast on the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22-26).
Element of Service:
Today, do something concrete to strengthen your love with God, neighbor and yourself. Reach out to someone in need in your neighborhood, or beyond. Pray that new church will overcome temptations and see new visions. Offer flowers on the altar as sign of fresh beginning and hope.
Let us pray, in the words of Dag Hammarskjold…
"God, give us pure hearts that we may see You,
humble hearts that we may hear You,
hearts of love that we may serve You,
hearts of faith that we may abide in You."
Elizabeth S. Tapia is a United Methodist clergy/theologian from the Philippines, now working as Mission Theology Director at the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church, based in New York City.