The Hebrews had been slaves in Egypt for generations. Suddenly, they were FREE! They made it out alive! But instead of taking the most direct route back to the land of their ancestors, they took a long and winding journey through the wilderness… 40 YEARS in the wilderness!! An entire generation died before they arrived in the Promised land. And an entire generation was born! But something amazing happened during those years in the wilderness… they received a special Covenant from God, the promise of a never-ending relationship between God and God’s people. That promise wouldn’t have happened if they’d stayed in Egypt, or if they’d taken the short-cut. Sometimes, we can only learn who we are as God’s beloved children in the wilderness. (For more info. read: Exodus 15:22-18:27)
After Jesus was baptised, it says, “He was driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:12; Matt. 4:1; Luke 4:1)
If God’s people developed a special relationship with God in the wilderness, and if the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for a time of fasting and testing… why, then, are we often afraid of ‘wilderness experiences’ in our own lives? Why do we avoid them? Or, when we find ourselves in a ‘wilderness experience’, why don’t we rejoice, saying, “This is great! The Holy Spirit has led me here to come closer to God?”
Maybe this year, during the season of Lent, we can do exactly that?
Lent – comes from the Old English word ‘lente’ meaning ‘lengthen’, as the days get longer during the spring (Dutch: lente). It is a period of 40 days beginning with the sign of the cross on Ash Wednesday and ending with the resurrection on Easter Sunday. Traditionally, Lent is a time of self-examination, penitence, self-denial, study, and preparation for Easter.
Lent is not a time of mourning, but a time to focus on God. Our worship during this season tries to reflect this focus. For example, flowers and decoration are minimal, ‘Alleluia’ and the ‘Gloria’ are not used. Times for silent prayer are encouraged. For more ideas on how to deepen your faith this season, check out: #LiveLent2020
Ash Wednesday – the palm branches left over from Palm Sunday the previous year are burned. The ashes are combined with water and oil, symbols from our baptism, and a cross is made on our forehead with the words, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” It is more than a reminder of our mortality; it is a reminder of the gift of life God has given each one of us. Living life in the fullness of God’s goodness means seeking forgiveness for our mistakes and dedicating ourselves to following Christ.