Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
I felt led to offer a Holy Spirit 101 course during our Lenten Journey this year- inspired by conversations I had with our confirmation crew this Fall. In speaking of God as three persons, the Trinity- I realized that God the Creator is easy enough to understand. Just look at creation, and we begin to see the intricate divine details of God’s imagination. God the Christ is definitely tangible- Jesus was human, walked the earth- and felt all the things we feel. But what about God the Spirit- the Holy Spirit? How do we wrap our minds around someone we literally cannot see?
I suggest we start in scripture. Specifically, Jesus’ story in Luke 4. Jesus has just had his beautiful baptism scene (that’s why he’s returning from the Jordan River- and that’s where the Holy Spirit descends upon him, remember?). So where does Jesus, now full of the Holy Spirit, go first in his earthly ministry? To his rightful throne as king? His big mansion on the seaside? His place of honor at the family dinner table? No- he was led into the wilderness. Where the devil is constantly testing him. Where he doesn’t get to eat. Where he finds himself all alone, except for one person: Holy Spirit. Jesus experiences in the span of 40 days ALL the things that could possibly draw someone away from God; so how does Jesus prevail over every evil sent his way? He relies on the word of God, written on his heart by the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes I think the Holy Spirit is so hard for us to grasp because we’ve been taught that God exists far away from us. But in the coming of Christ, that’s simply not true. God lives within our very hearts- and it's the Holy Spirit who keeps us connected to God while Christ is physically apart from earth. Spirit goes by many names and feelings in scripture, and I’d like to highlight three of them today. I hope at least one of them IS an image you can wrap your heart around.
If Holy Spirit acts as our comforter, counselor, and conscience, how do we get in touch with the Spirit that ALREADY exists within us? That’s the beauty of Lent each year, an invitation back toward the center of our being, where Spirit exists in us all. Here are some tangible ways to lean closer toward Spirit’s voice this Lent, as offered by Magrey deVega, a UMC minister, published on Ministry Matters website:
Give up the need to be right all the time. Give up your reluctance to ask for help. Give up your fear of failure. Give up comparing yourself to others. Give up the need to have things all figured out. Give up your fears of the future. Give up anesthetizing yourself to pain and suffering. Give up the need to be in control. Give up the need to make everyone happy. Give up all the non-essential noise in your life.
This may be the toughest thing of all to give up, but it may be the key to a deeply moving Lenten season for you. Your life is inundated by competing voices and blaring noises from the culture around you. Pay attention to your breath. Take walks. Drive without the radio on. Set the cell phone down when you’re at the family table. Watch less television, read more newspapers and books, and look people in the eye when you talk to them. Most of all, pray to God, “Silence all voices but your own.” Turn down the volume of your life, and connect to a God who knows you better than you know yourself.
Who is Holy Spirit: You tell me, what voice of comfort, counsel, and conscience you hear this Lent.
Rev. Emily Munger
delights in connecting sacred texts with everyday life.