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.
Each year on the first Sunday in Lent we follow Jesus’ Spirit-led journey into the wilderness. His temptations test what kind of king he will be. Will he be like Caesar and other rulers of the time or will he reign over a different kind of kingdom? Is he truly God’s Son here to usher in a new way?
First he is tempted to use his power to provide for himself like the Caesars and rulers of the time could do. Then he is tempted to seize the power of the kingdoms of the world. Finally, he is tempted to gain influence through performance, throwing himself off the temple in Jerusalem. In each temptation Jesus responds faithfully to his identity as the Son of God - not as someone seeking to claim power, but humbling himself in a path that ultimately leads him to the cross (Philippians 2:5-8).
After leaving the wilderness, Jesus says how his kingdom and ministry will be different. Instead of the ways of empire, his way will be good news for the poor, freedom for the oppressed, and the outpouring of God’s favor (Luke 4:18-19).
As a privileged person in a society centering whiteness, the work towards solidarity and racial justice must begin with repentance - to not just recite our litanies, but to examine how we are complicit in racist systems in our everyday life and practice. If we want to move towards the kingdom Jesus declares in Luke 4:18-19, we must submit to the Spirit’s guidance through the wilderness of Luke 4:1-13.
This work does not come naturally for white people because we often build our lives in such a way that racism’s impacts are invisible to us. So how do we begin the difficult work of self examination and repentance? Lent offers us the wilderness temptations to shed a light on where complicity in this world’s systems have blinded us.
Each one of Jesus’ temptations is about how his power and influence is gained or used. Does Jesus use his own power to make his own way? Will he grasp for power through the means of the current system? Will his ministry be all about performance?
Through each temptation Jesus faithfully lives out the way of the kingdom instead of centering his power or putting on a show. As privileged people these temptations can look like centering our voices instead of those hurt by our racist systems. It can look like performing acts of solidarity without the actual work of coming alongside those most impacted by injustice. Instead, our invitation is to listen to and center marginalized voices and stories. We are invited to step down and be led by our brothers and sisters of color to transformation. It is to do the work and not to just post about the work.
So this Lent, let us examine where we try to center ourselves in God’s work and where we hold power and influence. May we allow the Spirit to lead us to vulnerable places. And may we follow the way of Christ - emptying ourselves to be servants in the way of the kingdom of God.
Clare Ferguson Bravo is the Lead Pastor at Rose City Church and an ordained elder of the Free Methodist Church. She completed an MDiv at Fuller Seminary in 2015 and has served at Rose City Church since 2013. Prior to beginning pastoral ministry, Clare’s professional experience included working in community development, professional development, and fund development for organizations such as World Vision International and Habitat for Humanity Los Angeles.
Clare is passionate about helping people connect their faith with their everyday lives and communities. Clare is also a certified yoga instructor and offers guided yoga practice as a means of spiritual reflection and transformation.