Lenten Devotional: Thursday, March 22

by Alys Willman

Matthew 4: 1-3: Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Last week, as we drove back from our spring break camping trip, I was struggling to think of a good idea for a Lenten reflection.  So I asked Oscar (7) who sat next to me. What he said was better than what I had, so this is basically a transcript.

ME:  Oscar, I’m thinking about that story where Jesus goes into the desert for 40 days to pray. What do you think it was like for him there?

OSCAR: Oh man! A LOT of sand. Zero trees. Zero water. It’s very rare to have a river in the desert. Actually it’s impossible. It would be crazy hard. You’d almost die.

ME: And do you remember the part of the story where the devil shows up and tells Jesus if he’ll just come and be on his side, he can have everything – food, magic powers, you name it. He tells him he could be king of the whole world.

OSCAR: I think Jesus would be a good king, actually. He’d probably say you can go to bed whenever you want, and eat whatever food you want. He’d let everyone join in all the games and not even punish people when they mess up but just let them think about what they did.  Hey wait, is Dad getting another speeding ticket?

ME (watching flashing lights pass us): Eh, nope! Looks like they’re going after someone else. Back to the story – why do you think Jesus said no to all that he was offered, and instead decided to do what God asked?

OSCAR: Yeah, that’s weird. I mean, did he know he was actually going to get killed?

ME: I don’t know.

OSCAR: Well, even if he did, maybe he just missed Joseph and thought if he died he could see him again in heaven.

ME: Can you think of a time when your Dad or I asked you to do something, and you really, really didn’t want to do it?

OSCAR:  Yeah. Today on the beach I was playing football and we were winning and you said it was time to go.

ME: Imagine if some dude had shown up right then and been like, “Hey Oscar, come be on my team and you can play football for the rest of your life!”

OSCAR: That would be so cool! I would definitely go with that dude.

ME: Seriously? You don’t even know this dude.

OSCAR (thinking hard): Well, yeah. And you know what? This dude might be tricking me. I mean, after a while he would probably have gotten all bossy with me and made me do everything he wanted. And you and Dad and Nico would have left and I’d be stuck with him.

ME: Maybe it was like that for Jesus in a way.

OSCAR: You want what I think? I think Jesus did the right thing. Because what if the devil was lying? What if he made him king, but then instead of a real crown he put that crown of thorns on, and then he ended up dying anyway? And God was always the one who was nice to him and took care of him.  It’s probably better to go with someone who is honest with you and that you know instead of someone who’s just tricking you. Can I have a sandwich?

 Prayer:  God, you know us better than anyone else, and you know the ways we are tempted.  Help us to seek out and pay attention to your voice and your guidance so that we will know it when we hear it.  In Jesus’ name we pray.

Lenten Devotional: Thursday, Feb. 22

by Shannon Mayfield

Luke 4: 1-13: Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” 

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’  ”

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ “

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’  ”

Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’  ”

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

There is a beautiful river whose song I can only hear at night. In the day, layers of sound pile up on top of it: wind whirring, birds chirping, machines humming. Finding the song of the river itself is a matter of listening down through and beneath all the other things. A poor listener, I am grateful for the fall of night which lets me hear it again.

Lent can be like that. Failure can be like that. Tragedy can be like that.

In the bright and noisy moments, it can be hard to hear down through and beneath the layers of our lives.

For 40 days in the wild desert, Jesus was tempted like us. In the sunny mornings, he must have thought it absurd that he starve when he could turn a rock into bread. At midday, his ambition must have stirred thinking of all the people he could feed by using the tools the tempter offered.

In the late afternoon, the sun in his eyes must have been nearly as disorienting as the tempter quoting the words of the Bible itself.

Jesus strained, in that desert, to hear the river that whispered of the one true God, the fullness of God’s love, the faithfulness of God’s history with God’s people.

I don’t know if Jesus kept track of the river’s song beneath all that noise in the desert’s long days.

Or, if the quiet darkness of each night brought it back to him instead.

Prayer: God of love, we pray for the keen hearing that drills down through all other noise in our worlds, letting us never lose track of your song. But failing that, we thank you Lord, for the long nights of darkness. For, even as we fear the emptiness, it is often there that the song of your love becomes audible to us again.