A person prays in a pew in Trinity Church

Scripture Reflection: Fully Embracing God’s Love

“He saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove into him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.” —Mark 1:10–11


This Sunday is the first of the Lenten season — a time of preparation as we journey with Jesus to his death on the cross and then to his resurrection. Lent is often a time of self-examination, when we consider the things that keep us from fully embracing God’s love. It’s easy to avoid this self-reflection (“I’m so busy! There’s so much to do!”) or to make assumptions about God and what we think God wants from us (“Is God good? Does God really love me?”).

At his baptism in this week’s readings from Mark’s Gospel, Jesus doesn’t have the luxury of avoidance: He learns he is God’s beloved and immediately the Spirit sends him into the wilderness, a decidedly inhospitable place where he is tempted by Satan for forty days. Being beloved by God sounds rough.

Maybe this is why God’s love is hard for us to embrace: God loves us as we are and, if we allow ourselves to truly be loved by God, our lives will change.

In letting go, we make room for new life, even in the most inhospitable of places.

In the sobering stillness of Lent, we surrender our busyness and preconceived ideas and open ourselves up to being surprised and changed by God’s love. We practice paying attention. We may find ourselves led down paths we didn’t expect — right to our own wildernesses. And as we are loved through our discomfort, we see the work God is doing in the world to bring about justice and peace, and we become part of that work. In letting go, we make room for new life, even in the most inhospitable of places.

Who knows where God will send us — beloved and driven by the Spirit — to help heal our broken world?

Read all of Sunday’s scriptures.

Here are five ways to think more deeply about finding new life in our own wilderness places:

Visual Art  British artist Briton Riviere captures the isolation of Jesus in “The Temptation in the Wilderness.”

Theology  Author and minister Debie Thomas writes, “Even our wilderness wanderings can reveal the divine. This is not because God takes pleasure in our pain, but because we live in a chaotic, fragile, and broken world that includes deserts…”

Spirituality  The Rev. Suzanne Guthrie offers a self-guided retreat on the Gospel reading, which includes this quote from monk and theologian the Rev. Harry Williams: “Behind each and all of these temptations is the temptation to disbelieve in what we are, the temptation to distrust ourselves, to deny that it is the Spirit … which beareth witness with our spirit. God in us.”

Essay  “I am hoping that empty space will create something for me,” writes poet and theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama, suggesting Lent is “less for giving up, and more for making space.”

Music  “God, give us peace. We cannot make peace on our own,” sing folk duo Spectator Bird in “For the Tired and Alone.”

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