During the season of Lent, my husband, Pastor Patrick Sipes, will be our guest blogger with a series of tactile meditations exploring Sunday’s Gospel text. He is currently serving as the transitional minister at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Platte, Nebraska, and will be inviting congregation members into these meditations in worship. May God bless you as you explore Scripture through Prayer.
Items needed: a bowl or dish and some decorative sand.
The following meditation is offered knowing full well that many of you have differing life circumstances. I encourage you to pray with it to the best of your ability in the moment you are praying with it. If you are an adult praying with children and find yourself wishing to spend more time on a certain section resist that temptation for the moment and let the little child lead. Your goal in these moments is to meet them where they are at, let them play with the sand, let them answer a few questions and then move on. As for you, this does not mean your needs and your desires aren’t important, they are. If you have a desire to spend more time with this prayer, listen to that desire and then find time to come back to it by yourself of with a more mature partner at a later time. When you do, approach it with the intention of spending the time you desire. Find some music you like if that helps, pour yourself a relaxing beverage, and take all the time you can to pour yourself as deeply as you want, as long as you want and as often as you want into this time with Jesus.
As the season of Lent begins, we begin with a Gospel reading that tells us that Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness. A place where St. Mark rather succinctly tells us that Jesus was tempted, that he lived with wild beasts surrounding him, and that the angels waited on him. My invitation for you is to enter the wilderness with Jesus and through this time of prayer and meditation, spend some time becoming aware of what is in your particular wilderness.
Take your bowl of sand and use it as a means of journeying into the wilderness with Jesus. You may find it helpful just to put your hands or fingers on the sand and feel it. You might like picking the sand up and as you squeeze it or simply open your hand let it fall back into your bowl. You might use your sand to draw pictures which you can erase with a swipe of your hand or leave there to come back to later. Or you might think of a different way of using your sand altogether, however you choose to use it, use it in a way that takes you into the wilderness with Jesus.
As you enter the wilderness with Jesus, begin to look for what is tempting you in your life at this moment. Our temptations often arise around those things we are unsatisfied with, or that we believe we deserve. We find them lurking in places where we think we can or where we would like to get away with something. We find temptation in things that are forbidden, or risky, or off limits because it feels exciting to us. With Jesus as your guide, take some time to explore where you are tempted. As you find a place where temptation dwells, spend some time looking more deeply into that temptation to see what motivation lies there. Talk about your temptation with Jesus, ask him what he might do to resist it, or reframe it so that something more in keeping with who you are may be what draws you in. Spend the time that you need looking at your temptations and when you are done continue exploring the wilderness with Jesus.
As you continue to explore the wilderness. Notice the wild beasts that surround you, notice those things or people in your life that seem to wish you harm, recognize what in your life is “eating you up.” Bring these concerns to Jesus. Talk with him about them, see what he has to offer about living with these wild beasts, or protecting yourself from them, or recognizing them as something harmless that you are just afraid of. Spend as much time as you need examining the wild beasts of your wilderness and when you are done, move on with Jesus.
The wilderness is an inhospitable place, but we are told while Jesus was there, the angels waited on him. As you are in the wilderness with Jesus, take time to recognize what angels are waiting on you. Who is supporting you in your life? Who is providing what you need? Who is offering you help when you need it? These are angels. Take some time to share with Jesus who the angels are that are waiting on you, name them, name specifically what they do, and give thanks to Jesus for them. Spend the time that you need to find the angels in your life, and as you are ready, bring this time of prayer to a close. Let go of any sand you are holding, brush it off of your fingers, clear any pictures you have drawn, or leave them if that feels more appropriate, and as you leave the sand in your bowl until the next time, we close with the word Amen, Yes, it shall be so.
If you would like to explore this text as a family devotion, check out my post for Lent in a Dish 2021 on Family God Time: https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2021/02/15/lent-in-a-dish-2021-week-1-wilderness/