“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Isaiah 58: 5
A Word of Hope
As Lent drew near, I started to see all kinds of quips about giving up things:
“Lent in a lockdown? No thank you. My vices are the only thing keeping me sane right now.”
“I’m not giving up anything for Lent. I’ve had to give up working, socializing, eating out, earning and all my hobbies. If that doesn’t satisfy Jesus, I’d say he’s too picky.”
“For Lent, I’m giving up Lent.”
It’s understandable, isn’t it, that people are feeling this way. Every Lent, though, some grace brings “bread from heaven” in the form of preachers or writers who help reshape how we think about the journey of Lent.
In a recent sermon Nadia Bolz Weber looks again at the temptation in the desert. She uses Matthew’s wilderness passage where the Adversary* challenges: “If you are the son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” And Jesus answers: It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.” (4:3) The same pattern follows for each of the 3 temptations.
Bolz Weber believes that the most serious issue here is not whether Jesus yields to his hunger but “whether his identity as the son of God can so easily be called into question.” The more essential temptation is believing the false narrative of the crafter of lies. The Adversary sets up an If/Then proposition for Jesus—and for us all– which seduces us into believing that our Belovedness of God, our identity as children of God—established since the beginning of time, but reaffirmed at the baptism in the Jordan—is conditional. “IF is the most dangerous word in the Adversary’s mouth. If people truly loved me, I wouldn’t feel so lonely right now. If I was really a child of God, then life wouldn’t hurt so much.”
God’s logic, which Jesus knows in his bones, is Because/therefore. It begins and ends with unconditional love. So a part of our Lenten journey, and in truth our entire life journey, is to end the oppression of the lies that we only have worth if we can produce well, teach well, parent well, even serve well. Our work, then, is breaking the yoke of feeling we must prove our worth and trusting more each day in the absolute, unconditional love of God—not just on the surface of our minds, but in the core of our hearts and the marrow of our bones.
Source of our very being, The tempter’s snare whispers: Not good enough, not good enough. But your angels defend: You are Beloved—now and forever. Amen.
Dr. Pat Saxon