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First Sunday of Lent

Lead us not into Temptation

Where do we expect the Spirit to lead us and what do we expect in this life by following Christ?

After Jesus is baptised by John, the Spirit descends on him and then

The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan. As for John, he is arrested and will soon be dead. So begins the public ministry of the Christ we claim to follow.

Jesus is driven out into the wilderness. There is almost a violent undercurrent to this, as if Jesus has no say in the matter -- he is forced out. If we look further on in this chapter of Mark we see the same words used again but this time it is Jesus driving out demons.

And he cured many who were sick with diseases of one kind or another; he also drove out many devils (Mark 1:34)
And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out devils ( Mark 1:3)

It is curious at times how we use language. We might speak of someone driven by his emotions or by his ambition; we may even speak of someone acting as if possessed. Some of the time this will be spoken in a negative way and sometimes in a positive way. We see in the Gospel a man possessed not by a demon, not by something that impedes his freewill but by the Spirit of God, a liberating driving force.

At the risk of muddling metaphors we could say that although Jesus is driven out into the wilderness it is Jesus who is in the driving seat. The will of the Spirit and the will of Jesus are one in the same.

Jesus driven by the Spirit enters the wilderness, the place of demons and wild beasts, but when Jesus emerges from the other side it is he who drives out the demons. He who liberates those bound to slavery by being possessed. But this spiritual warfare frames the public ministry of Jesus as he dies the death of the spotless lamb to drive out the bondage of all sin and death once for all.

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit (1 Pet 3:18)

Perhaps the most terrifying yet liberating aspect of this is our being brought to God.

We pray as Jesus taught us Our Father who art in HeavenÂ… Thy will be done. But are we really ready for God's will to be done? Are we ready and willing to be led by the Spirit of God, no matter where that may take us?

In the same prayer we pray lead us not into temptation. To follow Christ is to be led by his Spirit, to be driven by his spirit to be possessed by his Spirit.

In today's world we are all too often forced to focus on the conflicts between peoples and nations and yet the source of all conflict, that conflict taking place in our own life is all too readily ignored or explained away. In Lent we put ourselves to the test, we put ourselves in temptations way. We take a hard look at how we live, we seek out those things that have taken possession of our lives and then we drive them out. We purge ourselves of those things which interfere with our freedom in following Christ in order to be possessed fully by him.

I must be clear here, I am not saying that we lose our free will by being possessed by the Spirit but as in the case of two lovers we share in the same bond one to the other; a bond that does not restrict but expands our life. The infinite all-powerful Creator united to his creation in a bond of undying love.

There is always the danger, of course, that we turn our own distorted will into God's so for forty days each year we enter into our wilderness, our Lent, to do battle with our own demons only then can we begin to see if we are more like the ministering angles than like the beasts.

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