During Lent this year, I looked for my book of Lenten devotionals by Walter Brueggemann, A Way Other Than Our Own. I unearthed the book last Friday, a tad late. Wondering if I wanted to tackle its challenges post-Easter, I realized we’re in Lent yet again -- called Covid. I follow Brueggemann’s daily devotionals with this “new Lent” in mind.
Luke 4:1-2a, Jesus’ desert time of isolation (sounds familiar?) is the springboard for Saturday’s devotional. The devil makes some irresistible fake offers. But Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, resists by the Word of God, effectually (if temporarily) booting the tempter out of His sphere. He discerned the lies, putting Satan behind him.
When Pastor Dave spoke of the Spirit’s gift of discernment, his sermon and the devotional dovetailed perfectly. Discernment, one of the good gifts of the God the Holy Spirit, is for all of us if we care to receive it; eternity lodged in it as in all His gifts. He invites us to ask; He delights to give.
Thus gifted by God’s Spirit, we recognize the chasm between God’s gifts and their counterfeits, see deeply into heart motives rather than surface glibness, and “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1Jn 4:1b) or from false prophets which abound today. The choices become clearer in practicing discernment.
Brueggemann: “Lent is a time for learning how to listen to the voices of promise and seduction … to hear better the true voice of assurance and to notice quickly the seductive voice of unfaith…” (p 8).We are at risk of following a voice that “mocks and seduces men and women of faith, making easy promises, issuing facile invitations, urging acts against our faith and identity.”
We stand between these two voices. But, “We begin our Lenten journey [Covid isolation, distancing, loneliness, boredom, artificial communication, media fatigue, statistics] addressed by the remarkable assurance that the God who summons us is the God who goes along with us.” We might be tempted to opt for the easy, risky way out. But we decisively take this gift, given without measure, by “… faith that requires entering the danger zone where our lives are at risk.” We choose, we use, we reject lies – our own included.
Brueggemann prays: “Teach us in this season how to listen to the voices of promise and seduction and how to tell them apart. May we hear better your voice of assurance and recognize its counterfeit, that we may walk faithfully before you. Amen”
Have a discerning new Lent. Stay well in the Spirit.