Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.Imagine that you come home one day, and there is a loved friend waiting on your doorstep to tell you that they have won the trip of a lifetime, and they are taking you with them.
How would we feel – Excited? Grateful? Joyous?
And then they tell you that this trip is to one of the least hospitable places on earth. That there shall be no food and only just enough water. Not only that, but on that trip you will be accompanied by the person you find the most difficult and unkind in all of the world. At that person would be badgering you, teasing and testing you all holiday.
How would you respond?
Perhaps joy would turn to ashes in our mouths.
Ashes are a symbol of Lent. We make them from the Palms that have proclaimed Christ’s Praises the year before. But once they have been through the fire, all that remains is ashes.
We mix those ashes with oil, and those who are able come on Ash Wednesday and take the sign of the cross on their foreheads. Just as we were marked with oil with the sign of the cross at our baptism. It was shortly after his baptism that Jesus was led into the wilderness, by the one we call friend or comforter. The Holy Spirit. And there he was tempted.
Through those trials and tests however he was not alone. The Holy Spirit was with him.
Jesus was offered relief from physical needs, he was offered the promise of security, and he was offered power. He turned all three down.
Because the Holy Spirit was with Him.
It is as if on our holiday from hell we were offered all we ever wanted or needed, friends that told us we were wonderful all the time, and were put in charge of every person or situation that had ever frustrated us. All we have to do is turn our back on our friend.
And we turn it all down. And turn to our friend instead.
For it is our friend, the Holy Spirit who meets us in our needs, in our insecurities, and in power. However The Holy Spirit provides in a very different way to the world offers. The Holy Spirit takes our focus away from me. From me to others and to God.
In Lent we give up wants and needs – we fast.
In Lent we seek to serve others rather than seeking affirmation from them.
In Lent we look for God’s solutions to our problems.
And although ashes do not satisfy in the mouth they are not without use. Dug into the ground they improve the soil and act as a fertilizer. Just as the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, leads each of us into the wilderness, the same Spirit takes that wilderness and from it springs new life.
An ashen Lent is fertilizer for the soul.
As we come to the table this morning let us commit to keeping a holy Lent. That now and always we may Worship the Lord our God, and serve only him.