Location matters. Think back to some of the most meaningful experiences of your life. As you reflect on those specific days, what details come to mind?
You probably recall more than just the people who were present. You likely also remember the place where those events occurred. Perhaps you can bring to mind the smells, sounds, and even the time of day.
Our lives are contextual; they happen within specific environments. Context is far more than just background noise. It's a key part of the story.
Just like our own lives, Jesus' ministry was very contextual, too. The teachings, miracles, and healings all happened in specific places, and those places reflect significant aspects of Jesus identity and purposes.
With this in mind, I'm excited to share about this year's Lenten column series theme, which will uplift sacred spaces from the Gospels. For the next seven weeks, we'll be venturing together through some of the many different contexts in which Jesus lived and moved during his earthly ministry.
Over the last five years of this column, each Lenten series has taken us in a different direction. We've defined the words most central to our faith. We've shared our favorite Bible verses. We've explored Jesus' own actions and also his instructions to us.
This year, our focus will be on the sacred places described in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Jesus' ministry encounters led him out to the wilderness, into religious buildings, out in the city streets, into people's homes, on top of mountains, into the water, onto the beach, and into a sealed tomb. We'll explore all these places together from now through Easter, which arrives this year on Sunday, March 27.
A good co-journeyer for this series will be your Bible. If you don't have a Bible, please email me at
and I'll get one to you by the middle of next week. Throughout the Lenten series, I'll be referring to verses that can be found in the first four books of the New Testament which is found toward the back of the Bible. The Old Testament is in the front, and the New Testament is in the back. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the four books of the Bible which highlight the stories of Jesus' birth, ministry, death, and resurrection.
For the remainder of this week's installment, let's head out to the wilderness. It's an apt context in which to begin our series because Jesus' 40 continuous days in the wilderness are a focal point during the season of Lent.
Matthew (4:1-11), Mark (1:12-13), and Luke (4:1-13) are the three Gospels which tell the story of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. It was a highly formative time and occurred just before his public ministry of preaching and teaching began.
The Gospels were originally written down in the Greek language, and the Greek word for wilderness is eremos. It is a word used to describe a place that is uninhabited, solitary, lonely, and desolate. In addition to his temptation in the wilderness, the Gospels regularly describe Jesus withdrawing to desolate places alone to pray. Jesus wasn't afraid of the wilderness; he recognized its significance as a place for reflection and prayer.
As you begin your own Lenten pilgrimage this coming Ash Wednesday, what might it look like to carve out space for some intentional wilderness moments? Whether it is an extra five minutes of quiet in the morning, a few moments of silent meditation on the daily trip up the escalator at work, or a few extra minutes of stretching before bed, let's commit together to leaning into reflective atmosphere of the wilderness.
The spirit is present and journeying with us every step of these holy days.