If I have one suggestion for you as you begin your Lenten journey, create a practice of letting God’s word speak to you. Some call it study. Some call it meditation. Some call it quiet time. Some know it as lectio divina, an ancient discipline of reading, listening, rereading, and listening again. Almost every child in every family learns it first by calling it grace: the daily moment of reflection we choose to take – or do not choose to take – before breaking bread. Here comes the food. Let’s say grace.
But it is more than that. The ancient tradition of praying three times a day helps us learn the prayers we should say especially if we have no meal in front of us. If we have learned to pray three times a day, no matter where we are, we will not be able to avoid reality. We will be more likely to see what we need to see. We would begin to see our story as a part of God’s story.
This can be tricky. It means getting more familiar with your Bible. But it means something else as well.
“And the Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”
Ask yourself, what did Jesus have out there in the wilderness, besides beasts and angels. Jesus is hungry. Jesus is tempted. He didn’t have his Bible. He had what the Bible is there to give us: God’s story. The story of a people. The story of a people who have a way out of judgement and exile. A story about a God who inverts his bow of wrath and puts a rainbow in the sky, so that every time we see it, we remember that God is for us. The story about the one who will lead us out of our wilderness and help this people fulfill their promise to be a light to the nation.
Sometimes our awareness of this might just depend upon one word. Jesus is baptized. Jesus hears the voice of his Father affirm him as “the beloved.” People all around him are being baptized in the Jordan. Here, however, is a difference we can easily pass over. Jesus is being baptized “into” that river, not just “in” the river. He goes all the way down down, immersed, from head to toe. By doing this, he is one who will identify with Israel so completely, that he will identify, with each one of us, and create our place in that story.
Where should you begin reading your bible? If you don’t want to keep reading in the Gospel of Mark, look for where the wilderness shows up first. Find the Ten Commandments, Exodus ch. 20, or that moment when Jesus went up the mountain, the Sermon on the Mount, St. Matthew ch. 5. Excellent places to start.
10 minutes a day. Three minutes, three times a day. That’s all it takes to see something different. That’s all it takes to let God speak to your reality. At the crescendo the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” And there is where your story intersects with God’s story. Like Mary’s did, at the moment of her son’s birth. Mary looked around at the angels, the shepherds, the beasts in the manger, and we are told: “And she treasured all these things in her heart.”
We do indeed live in a world that has lost its story. For those of us who are paying attention, our story turns on the plot of ministering angels and rainbows. We who follow Jesus out into the wilderness will find him in our wilderness. We will find our story again in Israel’s story. Famished. Tempted. But not alone. We can once again face our reality.
King David could not have poured out his heart and completed his work, if he didn’t know the story. He was not shy about claiming it for himself:
“Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; *
remember me according to your love and for the sake of your goodness,
“All the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness *
to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.” Psalm 25
May your journey this Lent be one with this kind of discovery.