Lent IB’24
18 February 2024
Mark 1.9-15
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone <+>

God help me to believe the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful it is. Amen.

                                                                       – Sister Macrina Wiederkehr


I so love that prayer by Sister Macrina Wiederkehr, because it catches us by surprise. As we hear it, we anticipate a word that’s anything but beautiful. Some of the words we may have expected: terrible, ugly, sinful, and so on, but beautiful – you’ve got to be kidding?!

As years as both a professional counselor and priest I can say that the vast majority of people I’ve come in contact with don’t struggle to believe they are sinners, the struggle to believe and claim the very words Christ heard at his baptism “This is my Beloved in whom I am well pleased.”

On that crystal clear, beautiful day on the banks of the Jordan River comes Jesus walking to fulfill “all righteousness” and as one theologian puts it, “walking into the path of solidarity with all humans that have lived or will ever live” – bringing heaven to earth in order to assume all things and bring earth to heaven. On this glorious day in a clarion voice of the God of the Universe declaring who Jesus really is – God’s Beloved with whom God is well pleased!

Priest and author, Henri Nouwen describes how we as God’s children are to claim these words for ourselves: “Every time you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: “These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting embrace.”[1]

Jesus’ baptism was his coming out into the public on the cusp of beginning his public ministry for the next three years. The resounding affirmation of his truest identity as the Beloved of God was made before he had done anything, before his performing of miracles and healing, preaching or teaching. Well don’t you imagine Jesus was ready to ride into town and set off a chain reaction of blessings? Why everyone would surely fall at his feet just like the three wise men did and worship him. But no, that’s not what happened Epiphany turned into a personal Lent where he was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted and tried by Evil personified, called Satan which means “accuser or adversary.” The Dark side wanted Jesus to forget who he was – God’s Beloved and attempt to prove it by making stones into bread, jumping off the high roof of the temple and being spectacularly saved by 10,000 angels who would swoop down and break his fall. Finally, tempted by greed to bow down and worship Satan. The writer of Hebrews put it this way:

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.”[2]

The accuser and adversary whispers – ‘Feed your appetite with some divine bread. Give into your pride and become famous by jumping off the temple, don’t worry, the angels will save you, I’m the Prince of this world give into your greed, fall down and worship me, and it’s all yours!’ 

All of these temptations entered through the same door, the same door Adam and Eve back in Genesis entered invited by a wily voice who twisted the truth, “Did God really say don’t eat the fruit,” and with Jesus, “Did God really say you are the Beloved? Prove it – earn it, and an added bonus if you worship me, I’ll throw in the entire world!”

Lent is a special time, when we enter into solidarity with Jesus in the wilderness and remember his temptations where his true identity was sorely tried, and how we are being tempted and tried too!

The spiritual journey that we are on is to claim our belovedness, the unconditional love that God has for us, and to see the temptations for what they are – counterfeits of the Real Thing – a loving relationship with Christ and a first-hand experience of his presence through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The spirit of the dark side, the accuser, our adversary will come at us some times frontally and at other times, subtly, whispering that we are inferior, worthless, less than, not good enough, a waste of God’s energy and time. Then the suggestions to give into our appetites, to give into our egocentric pride and greed in order to possess more and more. These become bottomless pits and downward spirals of shame. Just like a Lays potato chip we find that we can’t eat just one and we’ll still end up hungry. Let us pray: 

Almighty God, whose beloved Son was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save. Amen. – Collect for the First Sunday in Lent

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


[1]  Henri J.M. Nouwen, You Are the Beloved: 365 Daily Readings and Meditations for Spiritual Living: A Devotional



[2] Hebrews 4.14-16