February 18, 2024: God Does Not Leave Us

creek in snowy forest

First Sunday in Lent

God Does Not Leave Us

In the place where I live, this time of year is aptly named “the dead of winter.” Many residents have relocated to warmer climates. The trees are barren, shops are closed, darkness descends in late afternoon. We delighted in the early snow, but now it is more nuisance than joy. We count ourselves lucky if spring weather returns by the month of May. In my household, one singular pleasure is watching the deer venture close to the house, hoping for a morsel or two. We gently open our window, trying not to startle them, and festoon the ground with a feast of bird seed, corn and peanuts. Somehow, these wild creatures provide a sense of community, even in the isolation of deep winter.

In Mark’s spare description of the wilderness, there is no mention of the dialog between Jesus and Satan, no mention of the types of temptations. But there is rich detail intermingled with the barren wilderness experience: “He was with the wild beasts, and the angels waited on him.”

Although he was harassed by the tormentor for over a month’s duration, Jesus emerged filled with joyous optimism, proclaiming the good news that he embodied: the kingdom of God come near. I can imagine that the animals provided blessed distractions from the grinding isolation. I don’t know what form the angels took that waited on him. The word “angel” literally means “messenger.” In whatever form they manifested, they, along with the animals, gave Jesus the strength to face down the evil one.

This story reminds us that even in the most barren landscape—when friendships are in short supply, options are limited, and resources stretched—God does not leave us in our isolation. We are gifted with blessed distractions, with messengers of God in many forms. So dear friends, as we embark on another journey in the “dead of winter,” may we look to the Savior and declare with joy, the kingdom of God has indeed come near!

Dawn E. Volpe, pastor, Ephraim Moravian Church
Ephraim, Wisconsin