First Sunday in Lent, March 9, 2014
It is difficult to convince yourself that your physical and emotional needs aren’t the highest priority, when you are suffering. Yet we never begin the season of Lent without a story of Jesus willingly being led into the wilderness (or desert) alone with nothing to eat for weeks. Jesus understands the necessity of confronting his human limitations, despite the risk of suffering, to explore his spiritual identity. Jesus is trying to understand who he is at the core of his being.
In 1955 Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest, philosopher, biologist and paleontologist, wrote in his book The Phenomenon of Man, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Nothing in our physical world would lead us to believe that. Nothing in our bodies allows us to believe that. Nothing in most human cultures encourages us to believe that. We know all about being human. It is who we are.
And yet, as Christians, we annually observe the season of Lent. We are invited to go into the desolate places of our lives and confront our human limitations of mind and body, again and again/ We are led to follow Jesus’ example and explore our spiritual identities with the knowledge that there will be some suffering in doing so.
Why should we risk the pain of the wilderness? Can’t we just go through the Lenten motions? We know who we are. We are only human. We are not Jesus.
And yet, we need Lent to understand that there is a promise that extends beyond the pain of human experience. We need it to believe that human suffering isn’t the end of our being/ We need Lent to remember that despite what this physical body experiences, under the most severe of circumstances, we can trust God to keep our spiritual beings sustained.
Staci Marrese-Wheeler, pastor, Lakeview Moravian Church, Madison, Wisconsin