By Rev. Bruce Barnard
It seems almost impossible today, an entire segment of humanity marching in unknown territory trying to escape oppression, violence, and death. Yet, for several weeks now we’ve been bombarded with image after image, story after story – millions of Ukrainians forced to leave behind homes, belongings, and family, seeking shelter and safety. It’s a journey to uncertainty, to a future they did not seek, nor one they asked for. There is no certainty awaiting them on the other end, only a glimmer of hope in humanity. Most of us do not, nor ever will, identify with this wilderness experience.
Jesus picked the wilderness to be alone, to pray, to seek the face and presence of his Father. Yet even in that lonely place, he encountered something, really someone; someone with a singular goal of dislodging Jesus’ journey. Satan thought the way to deter Jesus from his mission was to simply place in front of him earthly temptations. (Luke 4:1-13) Jesus had no problem resisting those temptations, but I wonder do we?
The Lenten journey is much like that for us (or it ought to be). We have a destination, Christ, but getting there will require sacrifice, setting down and leaving aside our possessions, our habits, the things we know and love. During the Lenten season many of us will forgo something – a specific food or drink (coffee tops most lists, but not mine!), distractions like television, social media, and wasteful activities. It’s not just about laying those things aside however; it’s about laying them aside SO THAT we can pay attention to the wilderness journey and to the thing(s) that God is asking of us.
- What along your Lenten journey in 2022 are you willing to lay aside?
- What along your Lenten journey in 2022 is God asking you to pick up?
- What temptations are you encountering that can keep you from seeing and hearing from God?
- What is God asking of you as you react to the stranger, the traveler, the outsider you have not yet met?
I can imagine for some of the Ukrainians traveling hundreds of miles to perceived safety there will be temptation after temptation to doubt, to crumble, to quit: “What am I doing?” “Should we turn back?” “What if we get there and no one wants us?” “How can I leave behind all I know and love? Why are we suffering so?”
Your journey will be different; my journey will be different. But Christ is beckoning us this Lent to see him differently, to see how he is operating in the ditches and abandon buildings of towns and cities under siege; to see how he’s reaching others. It’s a call to US to come and follow him, wherever he leads.
What will you do?