February 17, 2013

Lenten Journey: First Sunday - The Desert

Deuteronomy 26:4-10
Psalm 91
Romans 10:8-13
Luke 4:1-13

For Reflection...

They should have warned us.  We should have known.  The first lesson of the spiritual life is a hard lesson:   The road to salvation -- to peace and gratitude and joy -- passes straight through the desert.  If you have begun more intentionally to pray, perhaps you know what I mean.

For the new convert or the committed person of faith the words of Romans 10:10-11 may seem to proffer the guarantee of an easy road:
...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For one believes with the heart and so is justified and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.  For the Scripture says, No one who believes in him will be put to shame.
Paul makes it sound so easy.  I want his words to mean that the road to on-going conversion and sanctification is a carefree one.  Once I put my faith in God through Christ, I think I ought to be home free.  I am justified, saved, free.  I confess, I believe --  yet I struggle.

Sometimes I find that the more I turn to God, the more I pray, the harder the journey becomes for a time.  Just in the moment when I begin to think that my confession is rooted more deeply in my heart and my belief is grounded in works of faith (James 2:14), I discover new temptations at every turn -- temptations, moreover, that I do not feel equipped to face in faith.  In just the moment when I expect to feel strong and consoled, I instead feel weak and alone.

What is God doing in me, in us?  Is this the abundant life of which Jesus assures us (John 10:10)?  This is the promise?  How will we endure it?

For Entering In...

Are you feeling at home in your quiet spot?  Have you begun to look forward to this time?  Spend a few moments becoming present to yourself.  Notice how it feels to be in your body, here, now.

Invite God to be present with you.

Reflect on these questions:
  • Have you spent more time in prayer since last Wednesday?  What has that been like for you?  If not, are you willing to set aside any judgments and jump in where you are?
  • What have you expected from a life of faith?  Are there things you learned as a child or as an adult convert?  What have your parents or church or the media or culture taught you about what a believer's life is "supposed to" be like?
  • Have you ever experienced a time of renewed faith, only then to be beset by more difficult spiritual challenges?  How did that feel?  What did you do?
  • What are the most difficult temptations you struggle with in your life today?
  • As we enter this first full week of Lent, are you willing to consider persevering despite challenges that may arise?  Is there someone in your life who can help you stay accountable?  A friend?  A pastor?  A spiritual director?  
When you have answered these questions in your thoughts or in writing, pause and again become present to yourself and to God.  What do you notice?

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