Editor’s note: This Lent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
By Joanne E.K. Larson
As Christ is born on Christmas, the light of God comes into our lives. Joy to the world! Carrying light and love into the world, we start a new year with celebrations and resolutions. If we are lucky, we grow as young Jesus did, remain faithful to our baptism in the Holy Spirit, and remember that we are God’s beloved children.
When he was grown, baptized, and with him God was well-pleased, Jesus was driven into the wilderness for forty days of fasting and temptation.
When our hearts are still light with Christmas cheer and the promise of a new year, Ash Wednesday reduces us to dust.
Now we find ourselves in the middle of our walk in the wilderness. Our Lenten disciplines weigh on us, or are already lost. The promise of Easter is miles away. We are in the desert. We are tempted.
Exodus 17 reminds us that we have been here before. Enslaved in Egypt, we cried out to God, were heard, and God worked through Moses to set us free. We sang out with praise! But with the song still on our lips, as we journeyed by stages from the wilderness of sin, we got thirsty. We quarreled. We forgot why we were even on this journey.
Such is the way of this world. We are prepared, we are sent into the desert, and we get thirsty. Moses is sent for water. Jesus is sent to the cross. We are sent with them.
This is the journey with God. This wilderness. This temptation. This choice.
Here is where we choose to pick up our staff, as Moses did, and work with God to bring water to our people. Here is where we pick up our cross, as Jesus did, and give away our life for others. Here is where we come into relationship with God, as God is in relationship with us. We listen. We trust. We love. We set our people free, and in so doing we too are set free. We are led to the land of milk and honey. We are born into new life.
To know freedom we must make choices from the difficult places of thirst and persecution and injury because that is when we are tempted to reject God and forget that we are saved as we save.
It is through our Lenten disciplines, and all of our spiritual practices, that we choose to spend enough time with God to learn that relationship is the way of God’s creation. To learn that love and peace and generosity cannot grow within us unless we share them with our neighbors, especially in the worst of times. We learn to choose to ask “how can I help?” when we want to shout “you’re doing it wrong!” To choose to say “thank you,” instead of “is that it?” To choose to whisper “tell me where it hurts,” rather than walk by without noticing.
Is God among us or not? You choose.
Joanne E.K. Larson is an advancement operations coordinator at San Francisco Theological Seminary.