In a way, the Lenten lectionary begins at the end. The very first Sunday of Lent, we find ourselves observing Jesus after forty sweltering, exhausting, emaciating days in the desert. It is at this moment that the Tempter greets him with a series of temptations. Not when Jesus is spry and full of passion. Not when Jesus has just come out of the waters of Baptism and heard his belovedness proclaimed. Not when Jesus has the physical and mental reserves to bear the weight of these dangerous and soulless temptations.
As we have watched our Muslim brothers and sisters refused entry into U.S. airports, targeted and baseless discrimination against immigrants increase, hate crimes surge dramatically, white supremacists embed themselves in mainstream discourse, and millions of people who claim the same faith as us celebrate many of these violent and violating shifts, we may find ourselves beginning at the end in a way, too. Feeling as though our hope, our resources, our energy, our expectations have all been used up already. How are we supposed to be tested now? We have no bread, no water, no energy left. And yet, here is precisely when Jesus is tested by the Tempter. Not on Day One, or Two, or Three.
No, not at the beginning, but at the end. So, during these forty days, we begin at the end with Jesus. Asking important questions about how to respond, how to resist the Tempter precisely when we feel like we cannot. Together, we will discuss the spiritual fortitude required for moments like this one.
As we journey onward from the ending-as-beginning, we’ll discover that each New Testament story during this season zooms in on a particular moment with Jesus and one of his friends. First, Nicodemus; then, the woman at the well; and so on. Each story invites us to resist temptations that lurk around us and within in: temptations of privilege, exclusivism, theological blindness, despair, empire, and ultimately, silence.
So during this Lenten season, just as Jesus found himself resisting temptations of power and spectacle, we will discuss the things we are being called to resist both as a community and as individuals. Together, we will begin at the end, trusting that we cannot live on bread alone, but that in the wilderness, our overturning, transforming God will give us all we need and more.