The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in. (Isaiah 58:11-12)
For forty years after their liberation from slavery in Egypt, the people of God wandered in the desert in search of the land of promise. For forty days and forty nights it rained on the Noah family and the animals in the ark. For forty days before beginning his public ministry, Jesus fasted and endured temptation in the wilderness.
The journey of God with God’s people has always involved struggle, and it has always involved promise. The people were hungry in the wilderness, and God gave Moses water from the rock. The creatures in the ark saw the rainbow promise that God would not destroy the earth again. Jesus’s life and ministry brought him to the cross, and in Christ’s death and resurrection God is saving the whole world.
Today, the church begins its own forty day journey through the wilderness of Lent towards the promise and mystery of Easter. These forty days are traditionally a time of fasting and repentance, prayer and almsgiving. Lent is a time of focusing on what really matters. It is a time for peeling back the layers of fear, apathy, and shame, and finding our truest grounding and identity in God.
Lent is more a time for stretching than a time for comfort–but it is not without refreshment. With God, there is water in every wilderness.
On Sundays this Lent, we will hear over and over the promises of God for the wildernesses of our lives: Jesus spreads mud on someone’s eyes and they are healed; dry bones come back to life; the woman at the well will never be thirsty again; Abram and Sarai are blessed and sent; angels come to accompany Jesus so that even God-in-flesh is not alone in the struggle.
Together with the whole church, I invite you to keep these forty days together with us. Decide to show up to church every Sunday, or every Wednesday, or both. Keep Lent at home with your family. Engage in a hard and honest conversation – like this one about death and dying. Take up a Lenten practice (for ideas, check out our member SommerAnn’s Spiritual Practice Guide). Reflect on what forces hold you you away from God and neighbor, and make a plant to resist them.
Let us continue our journey through these forty days of Water and Wilderness to the great Three Days of Jesus’s death and resurrection.
P.S.–We have some awesome preachers lined up in what one colleague calls a “Lent rodeo.” Five preachers from three congregations are sharing the task of preaching in this Lenten series. Stop by to hear a different preacher every week, and get to know our Chicago Lutheran neighbors.
The preaching schedule at St. Luke’s is as follows:
March 1 – Rev. Eric Worringer, Holy Family Lutheran Church
March 8 – Pastoral Intern Adam Dowd, Holy Family Lutheran Church
March 15 – Rev. Nicolette Peñaranda, First Lutheran Church of the Trinity
March 22 – Rev. Erin Coleman Branchaud, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square
March 29 – Pastoral Intern Elle Dowd, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square