Led by the Spirit of our God, we go to fast and pray With Christ into the wilderness; we join His paschal way. “”Rend not your garments, rend your hearts. Turn back your lives to me.”” Thus says our kind and gracious God, whose reign is liberty.
2. Led by the Spirit, we confront temptation face to face, And know full well we must rely on God’s redeeming grace. On bread alone we cannot live, but nourished by the Word. We seek the will of God to do: this is our drink and food.
3 Led by the Spirit, now draw near the waters of rebirth With hearts that long to worship God in spirit and in truth. “”Whoever drinks the drink I give shall never thirst again.”” Thus says the Lord who died for us, our Saviour, kin and friend.
4 Led by the Spirit, now sing praise to God the Trinity: The Source of Life, the living Word made flesh to set us free, The Spirit blowing where it will to make us friends of God: This mystery far beyond our reach, yet near in healing love.
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. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written,
“One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
“He will command his angels concerning you”, and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”’
Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
“Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”’
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Halfway through Lent, we come to the re-telling of the time that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.
Jesus wasn’t on his own going into the wilderness. He was led by the Spirit, as the hymn reminds us. But this leading was not into a quiet and peaceful time away from all the challenges and rigours of daily life. It was into an even deeper time of testing, about Jesus’ own sense of calling, how he understood this and whether he had the courage to live it out.
The time of testing needed a time of preparation, a period in which all other concerns of daily living were set to one side, a space without the support of family and friends.
The time in the wilderness was counter cultural in terms of many of today’s norms and values. So much was set to one side – food, possessions, home, companions on the way. It pushes against the present drive to fill each moment with activity or the internet, and to feel that it’s a failure not to be busy.
In the wilderness Jesus finds himself, and the strength to resist the very real temptations offered to him, of food, of power, of worshipping a false God. From this base he receives the strength to live his life fully and courageously, even to the sacrificial end on the cross.
As I travel through this Lent, I pray to be open to the Spirit’s leading, even when taken to strange and uncomfortable places. May I then be faithful to God in the temptations that come my way, so that I may better offer my life sacrificially in service.
Oh God, may I follow where your Spirit leads. I give thanks for Jesus’ courage in facing up to, wrestling with and resisting temptation. Grant me the courage to find the space in which I can be ready to wrestle with temptation. Give me the strength to resist the desires that lead me away from You. Prepare me that I may offer my life again in service to You. Amen.
The Rev’d Dr Elizabeth Welch, is a retired minster, past Moderator of URC General Assembly and member of St Andrew’s URC Ealing.