Monday, February 20, 2012

First Sunday in Lent, 26 February 2012

The call to repentance during the season of Lent is often mistaken for a call to sorrow and mourning characterized by temporary self-deprivation, rather than a call to a attend more closely to the continuous conversion begun at our baptism, characterized by an intensification of lifelong spiritual disciplines.

In 2009, Noel Schoonmaker invited to readers of Homily Service to reflect upon the wilderness of Lent not as a temporary sojourn fraught with difficulty, but rather as the journeying-place where we meet God most poignantly and effectively.

As a metaphor, the wilderness evokes difficult seasons in life. Sometimes our troubles multiply like grains of sand and our stress rises like the midday sun. When we experience periods of struggle or temptation, we are walking in the wilderness. When we stumble through loneliness, troubled relationships, or financial strain, we are walking in the wilderness.

While we all find ourselves in the wilderness from time to time, the good news is that God meets us there. The wilderness is not only where the Israelites struggled but also where God gave them manna from heaven. The wilderness is not only where the devil tempted Christ but also where angels waited on him.

...God still shows up in the rough places. When we feel as if life is coming apart at the seams, the heavens are, too, so that God may appear to us.

...In Mark 1, the wilderness provides the backdrop for God’s self-revelation. Thankfully, God still shows up in the wildernesses of life. While Lent demands somber repentance, it also invites us to celebrate the God who tears open the heavens and comes to us in the rough places of our existence.

Noel Schoonmaker (2008): 1 March 2009, Lent 1, Homily Service, 42:2, 16-17.

Noel Schoonmaker is pastor of First Baptist Church, Valdese, North Carolina and a PhD candidate in homiletics and liturgics at Vanderbilt University.

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