The season of Lent is based on Jesus’ 40 days of temptation in the wilderness. Take 40 days, add Sundays, and you’ve got Lent – a season of preparation that leads us to Holy Week. I’ve come to think of Lent as a time of pilgrimage or journey. It’s an annual trek we undertake designed to reshape and form our thinking and living. It’s an opportunity to once again make Jesus the model or prototype that we follow, and to devote our attention to his life and teachings – as opposed to allowing so much of the noise from our over exposure to media (social and news) to shape our outlook.
I invite you to imagine, or better yet, set forth on a journey with Jesus during these Lenten days. A great way to do this is to commit to read through one of the Gospels. Follow the chronicle of Jesus’ life from its beginning to end (manger to cross and resurrection). Allow that story to read your life and what may be going on with you. Sit with it. Don’t be in a hurry.
Reflect on the significance of Jesus’ baptism. Why did he choose to be baptized? Go with him into the wilderness temptations, noticing what he experienced and overcame in order to help you in your own overcoming. Imagine yourself as part of the crowd during his Sermon on the Mount, or at the Feeding of the 5000. Wouldn’t that have been something to eyewitness? Thanks to the Gospel writers we can get a sense of it. Put yourself in the midst of the twelve as they argue and jockey for position with Jesus, seeking his favor and the places of honor in the kingdom. Doesn’t this sound so familiar?
Pay attention to the questions Jesus asks: “Do you want to get well?” “Who touched my clothes?” “What do you want me to do for you?” “Do you also wish to go away?” “Do you believe this?” “Do you love me more than these?” These are questions relevant not just to Jesus and his conversation partners, but also to us. What question do you imagine Jesus asking you during this Lenten season?
Lent is meant to be a pilgrimage journey. A pilgrimage is so very different from a vacation or tour. We walk at a savory pace, taking time to notice, pray, and reflect. We work to be aware of what’s going on around us and within us. We are attentive to those who’ve gone before us and walked this same path. We learn as much from the journey as we do the destination.
So, check your pace, during these days of Lent. Slow down. Look up. Watch. Wait. Listen. What might a journey with Jesus have to show you? You will never know if you don’t take the journey.
During the Lenten season I will be preaching at First Baptist Church on several of the key events in Jesus’ life and ministry with this central thought in mind: Jesus is the one who goes before us as the path maker or trail blazer. But he invites us to go with him. We are invited to participate in his life, and to let his life be our life. Participation verses just observation. There’s a significant difference between these two. Our journey with Jesus through Lent may begin with observation – study, taking note – but the true invitation of pilgrimage is participation.
This after all is what Jesus has done for us. He took on flesh and blood to participate in our humanity, so that he might offer us redemption and a return to the fullness of life that God designed for us. Now it’s our turn to respond in kind, taking him up on the invitation to know him fully and walk with him daily. Lent offers us a great reminder of this pilgrim’s path. Will you once again, or perhaps for the first time, take up the journey?