On Ash Wednesday evening, following the 6:00 p.m. service (and soup and sandwich supper) we will begin the first of seven Bible studies on the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s Gospel gets down to business very quickly, skipping over the stories of Jesus’ birth and childhood and beginning right away in the wilderness outside of Jerusalem with John the Baptist. In our first session, we will focus on Jesus’ baptism and his time in wilderness. For forty days Jesus was alone in the hostile wilderness being tested by Satan.
It is not a coincidence the season of Lent is a period of forty days, not counting Sundays (which are not actually counted as fast days because every Sunday is a remembrance and celebration of resurrection). Like Jesus, and Israel before him, before we can take part in the victory we must first spend some time in the wilderness. Before we can celebrate Easter, we first must do battle with the evil in our own lives. Lent is a time of repentance and preparation. It is a time of sincere personal reflection on what it means to be a believer and witness to the Kingdom of God in this time and place.
Many of us already understand what it is to struggle with evil in our lives. When we face illness and tragedy, we are in a very real facing a power that threatens the wholeness and goodness God wants for us. We face the temptation to engage in behaviors that are destructive to ourselves or others, we know firsthand what means to face the testing of the adversary.
Yet, there is hope. As we read in Mark, God sent angels to minister to Jesus during his time in the wilderness. And God will do the same for us. No matter what our struggle might be, God will watch over us.
This coming Sunday is the first Sunday of Lent. Make it a point to join your church family in worship and prayer as we prepare our hearts, once again, for the passion and resurrection of our Lord.