Consider this an invitation to Lent
By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin
director, Formation Ministries
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.
Encountering again this familiar Lenten text, I turn to wonder. For context, Jesus had just been baptized and named beloved. He had chosen the calling that was his to claim. All we get next in the text is that he was “led by the Spirit in the wilderness.” I wonder what that was like. I wonder what the Spirit felt like at work in his heart that summoned him to the wilderness for forty days and forty nights.
I recall moments in my own life of being led by the Spirit, feeling the movements of a deeper call at work. I too have been led into wilderness moments, times of unsettling clarifying of who I really am, and what matters most. I was a teenager when I first remember feeling that agitating and inviting Spirit at work within me so strongly one night that I walked away from my close group of friends to stand at the edge of the lake at my home campground. There was a strong wind upon the waters, and I stepped into a brave solitude I had not fully known before. It was me and God, and I stated my desire to be who God needed me to be in the world.
Sometimes we need to step away, into whatever wilderness is summoning, to get clear about who we really are and what the Spirit is inviting of our sacred lives. The quality of that experience for me was longing and a little fear and trembling. I want this, but am I ready to be “alone with God” and risk becoming who God is calling me to be? On the other side of the natural hesitation is a hopeful future beckoning, because within the calling is God’s deep vision for all creation coming more fully into expression.
As we are reminded in Doctrine and Covenants Section 164:9b, “The rise of Zion the beautiful, the peaceful reign of Christ, awaits your whole-hearted response to the call to make and steadfastly hold to God’s covenant of peace in Jesus Christ.”
Lent is a time to choose, to discern between all the cultural expectations and voices competing for our attention to discern what is truly of God and what matters most for the peaceful reign of Christ to be made real.
Each time any one of us, within the context of our own life, chooses to say yes to that sacred calling, more of the fullness of God’s vision is realized and expressed. We model the pattern of Jesus when we enter the wilderness, when we listen to the Spirit that leads us to the place we desire most to go even though we may resist.
The season of Lent is a time to be more precise about the vision that calls us. Practices of fasting, prayer, silence, and wilderness are ways to “clear the chaos and clutter, clear our eyes that we can see all the things that really matter.” (Shirley Erena Murray, Hope Publishing, 1992. Community of Christ Sings #151, “Come and Find the Quiet Center”) This is why the Lenten focus for Community of Christ this year is A Hopeful Future Awaits.
At the close of 2023 World Conference, President Steve Veazey encouraged and challenged us, “Community of Christ has a hopeful future of continuing adventure with God, if we choose it! But make no mistake, choosing the future God envisions will require discernment, courage, sacrifice, generosity, flexibility, and creativity.” Lent is a time to choose, to discern between all the cultural expectations and voices competing for our attention to discern what is truly of God and what matters most for the peaceful reign of Christ to be made real.
Amid the destruction, division, and increasing sense of hopelessness and dread, the possibility of a hopeful future is even more important to claim and live. The good news of Jesus Christ today invites us to get serious about who we are for the sake of our families, communities, and the planet itself. The image of the cross and the season of Lent are here to remind us that our faith was made for wilderness times– in which we test and sift, struggle and pray, discern and live out of our deepest identity and trust sense of call accompanied with courage as we walk with Christ.
This year’s Lenten theme, A Hopeful Future Awaits, also reminds us that though the call to discipleship leads to sacrificial love through the cross, it also leads to resurrection and new life in Christ. In this season of leadership transition, we are gifted anew with the Spirit’s call into the wilderness to discern who we are called to be for the blessing of God’s creation. You are invited to join us in this journey by focusing your own prayer and hearts in the wilderness the Spirit calls you to this Lenten season. You can also join as a worldwide church in the following opportunities for online, global connection. More details will be shared on CofChrist.org and social media.
Ash Wednesday, 14 February 2024
Join the World Church Leadership Council in a special Prayer for Peace livestreamed from the Temple sanctuary to begin the Lenten season.
Check the church’s social media accounts each week during Lent for invitations to deepen through spiritual practice and reflection.
Good Friday, 29 March 2024
You are invited to an online experience of lament as we journey to the cross and behold the suffering Christ in the world today.
Easter Sunday, 31 March 2024
Share in a hopeful Easter message and online elements that can be used in your community.
As a worldwide community of faith, we are invited to live into this story and invitation anew by listening for the call of the Holy Spirit in our own time, lives, and contexts.
There is so much to wonder about in the simple phrase that begins this Lenten season, “led by the Spirit in the wilderness.” As a worldwide community of faith, we are invited to live into this story and invitation anew by listening for the call of the Holy Spirit in our own time, lives, and contexts. Notice what it feels like for you to be “led by the Spirit in the wilderness” this Lenten season. What is the wilderness that you are called to enter? What will it mean for you to clarify who you really are and what truly matters most? What will it mean for us to “clear the chaos and clutter” to see the things that really matter most for the journey ahead?
A hopeful future awaits! The Spirit is leading us! Will we choose to follow?