For forty days Jesus faced temptations in the wilderness. The Bible tells us that the tempter enticed him with three ways to lord over the people. Three times Jesus chose the way of suffering. From that moment he began announcing the kingdom, calling on people to repent their evil and indifferent ways and come to God.
On Ash Wednesday we will enter the season of Lent, the forty days before Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. These next weeks we bring the temptations that face us to the hours of worship. We bring the whole bag with us: our indifference to the pain of the world, our envy of people who seem to be more favored than we, our pride, our secret resentments, our groundless anxieties and fears. They are many and so subtle that the voice of the tempter will try to lull us into complacency.
But the call of the King and the Kingdom is here, too. Christ calls us to honest self-examination. He calls us to a new commitment, to resist whatever is unworthy and base. He draws us to the cross to see his compassion and infinite longing for us and for the world.
The glad good news of the gospel is here at the foot of the cross. There we leave the whole wretched cargo of our sin and failure, of shattered hopes, of erratic performance. Jesus sweeps them up in his outstretched arms and carries them away as far as the east is from the west.
Here Christ also summons us to follow him. He searches for all who are lost, all who have needs, all who have given up on life. Where he goes, we now go. On the way we will find one another, forgive one another, and serve and enjoy our Lord and one another.