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A Letter From Pastor Jeff Sievert
March

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  Matthew 4:1  

What tempts you?

Wine, women/men, and song?  Dancing, smoking, chew?  Fast cars, big houses, gambling, and all-night parties? 

Okay.  Maybe.  To some degree.  Sometimes.  The usual suspects are the usual suspects for a reason.  But it’s also convenient to conjure up the juiciest cable TV-ready temptations as a kind of decoy. 

We roll all these bad boys into a metaphorical ball and toss it so far down the field we don’t have to deal with the genuine, down and dirty temptations right under our noses.

Which brings us to the season of Lent, this 40-day season between Ash Wednesday and Resurrection of the Lord Sunday. 

We know now that giving up something, like chocolate or shopping or binge watching Walking Dead, is only one approach.  We know we can also take on something like a spiritual practice or mission. 

There is good in both of these Lenten paths.  This year I’d like to suggest another:  confronting the tough wilderness right where we are.

A thread running through our religious sensibility is that God is something to be pressed onto an unwilling world, and we’re the ones to do the pressing.  The truth is that God is already in the world, and family members, and friends, and countries, and institutions, and situations, and all the things we care about.  And also all the things that frighten us.  Our task is to open our eyes to God’s presence, which is no small task.

The wilderness is where that happened for Jesus.  It’s that place where the wild things are.  Where the usual points of reference recede to leave us exposed, as if on a pinnacle or broad, flat plain.  It seems desolate.  God forsaken.  But God is already there, redeeming it, shaping true, authentic identity out of temptation.

Maybe we’re in a wilderness of some kind right here and now in our nation, the world, or in our own hearts, tempted by different, real, down and dirty temptations.  I’m tempted by blissful befuddlement.  “It’s just so complicated,” I say, and retreat. 

Overwhelming anxiety and deadly despair corrode my sense of wellness and weaken my sense of God’s presence.  Some walk the wilderness of the unwelcome refugee, the idled lumber mill worker, the traumatized immigrant or undocumented resident, or the margins of economic prosperity, and wonder if God is there. 

Jesus meets us in all these through his own wilderness temptation.  We’re invited to grapple with who we really are as human beings, as Christian citizens, and even as a nation.  To get a little clearer about what our earthy, dusty, and beloved-by-God selves are all about. 

Let Lent be something for you – a giving up, a taking on, a wilderness walk, a coming to terms with yourself and with God, practicing the presence of Christ, or something else. 

In any case, know that we do it together, and that God’s Spirit is there with you in the place Jesus has already traveled.

You keep a holy Lent–

Jeffrey S. Sievert, Pastor