Ash Wednesday: February 14 | Luke 4:1-15

The Rev. Cn. Bonnie-Marie Yager-Wiggan

Still wet from the waters of his baptism, the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness. The wilderness is a dangerous place where you go if you must. In Scripture, the wilderness is often the dwelling place of forces hostile to God. In the wilderness, you experience the chaos that menaces human life. The wilderness is a place of crisis—induced by the fear that God is absent.

The wilderness experience often makes our greatest temptation clear: to believe God is not here. We are tempted to believe that God is not present with us now and in our own time in the wilderness. We think God has actually forgotten us, is ignoring us, and is ambivalent to our cares and concerns. We are bewildered to find ourselves in the wilderness. How can the Spirit lead us to the wilderness? We begin to think the wilderness of our lives is punishment or cruelty from a distant and angry God. In some ways, that’s an easier choice, an easier way to make sense of our circumstances. How do you make sense of a God who might lead you to the wilderness?

Jesus affirms again and again the trust and obedience to take the path of God. Even to the wilderness and to do so through a commitment that asks everything from him. His ministry was based not on obligation but on choice. His death on the cross was based not on obligation but on a choice. And his resurrection was based not on obligation but on a choice. Our life with God is not an obligation but a choice; in other words, it is based on love.

Church tradition teaches that Lent is 40 days of preparation because of Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. Lent is a time of preparation. We know, more often than not, that our faith is forged in the wilderness and testing. Jesus is with us in the wilderness. We are his, and he is ours. We have been called and named. His journey in the wilderness is good news for us, for we worship a God who has been tempted in every way we, too, are tempted. We might rather avoid the wilderness and path of God to the cross for the empty tomb, but the wisdom of Lent proclaims that the glory of Easter Sunday, of God’s love and faithfulness, will not make much sense unless we stay the course and journey to Easter through Golgotha.

Canon Bonnie-Marie has been serving at Trinity Cathedral since 2017. She and her husband, Jamie, enjoy trying new restaurants and spending time with their Scottish Terrier, Greyfriar.

Find all Lenten Devotionals from Trinity Cathedral here.