08 March 2006

The Gift of Newness*

*This devotional comes from The Upper Room Disciplines 2006 for Sunday, March 5, 2006 by Dr. Wendy M. Wright, Professor of Theology and holder of the John C. Kenefick Chair in the Humanities, Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

Mark 1:9-15 (NIV, Msg, NLT)

From childhood, the desert has held a lure for me. To the superficial gaze, the desert landscape is barren; but when you spend time there, its rich variety becomes evident. As the sun goes down, it comes alive with many kinds of creatures. The desert is a wonderful, complex ecosystem that yields its mysteries slowly over time.

Since the fourth century the church has observed forty days of preparation before the great feast of Easter. And on the first Sunday of those forty days, the church proclaims the story of Jesus' temptation in the desert. Set in high relief, with its spare, stark language, Mark's temptation scene strikes us with its austerity. Washed in the waters, Jesus hears himself addressed as beloved son; then, he is immediately driven out into the wilderness.

So it is with us. To be a Christian is to be incorporated into the body of Christ. We enter that mystery through baptism. As in the Gospel narrative, we are called to the fullness of our baptismal promise through a kenotic process: temptations, struggles, reevaluations, new and often painful learning and unlearning. To be a Christian is to be driven out into the desert. Yet the desert is not barren but full of life, a rich and complex environment that reveals itself as beautiful, healing, life-giving, and restorative. So too our Lent. We are called to sacrifice, to self-denial, to radical reorientation. But we are called thus because we are beloved sons and daughters, because we are infinitely loved and called to more than we can presently imagine.

Suggestion for Meditation:
Consider the struggles or temptations you bring into this Lenten season. Know that you are not only present to these struggles with the beasts but with the angels as well, as was Jesus. Into the barren loneliness of your desert, bring the knowledge that you are deeply loved because you are a child of God. Allow yourself to explore this desert place in its unexpected richness, its potential to bring you to insight, healing, and new life.


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