Lent’s 40 days of preparation for baptism and discipleship are
modeled on Jesus’ postbaptismal test in the wilderness. Reading about
Jesus’ struggle with the devil opens up some potential directions for
the preacher’s journey to Sunday:
Imagine being brilliant—Massachusetts Institute of Technology kind of brilliant. You’ve aced the course work in electrical engineering and computer science and you’re ready to work as a Wall Street analyst. But there’s one test left, and it has absolutely nothing to do with electrical engineering or computer science. You have to swim 100 yards.
Chang Lee survived two brutal wars in his mother country, Korea. He lived through the dangers posed by Japanese bombs, Chinese howitzers, North Korean minefields and American carbines. But he did not survive an encounter with a mugger in the hallway of his own apartment in the U.S. He was brutally stabbed, and died at the age of 80. Chang Lee’s family were members of the parish I served in Queens.
Lent tears us from the glow of Christmastide and Epiphany and propels us into a harsh new season. The early warning signs—the flight into Egypt, Rachel’s uncontrollable wailing, the talk of the cost of discipleship—were easy to gloss over while the “Noels” were still ringing in our ears.
Recently some huge billboards along British Columbia’s major roadways showed black-and-white photos of car wrecks—gashed and mangled metal, clouds of steam and smoke—all illumined under the luridness of fire, flares, searchlights and siren lights. The caption beneath the ads was as stark and grim as the photos: “Speed is killing us. Slow down and live.”