by Rev. Lisa McGehee
In 2005 while on a peacemaking mission trip our group of American seminary students traveled in a 15 passenger van throughout the countries of Croatia, Zagreb and Bosnia. Between each country we encountered many checkpoints. During the 15-day trip we became accustomed to gathering our passports and giving them to our leader, a former seminary student, who was also our driver.
It wasn’t too bad. The person receiving the passports would look at them, stamp them and send us on our way. All was well until the second Friday afternoon of our trip. We were detained at a checkpoint that seemed as if it was located in the middle of nowhere, a wilderness. For thirty minutes we sat in the van while the guards were in the checkpoint stations with our passports. Our leader calmly reminded us to not turn around, to not worry and to remain calm. She felt sure it was a test. The guard came back and asked questions in the native language of which our leader spoke. Fear began to sink in when I realized that our leader was the only person who spoke the language. The guard went back to the checkpoint station, spent a few minutes and then came back. He did this several times until our leader finally paid a “fee” so that we could get through.
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4.1-4 NRSV)
That day, sitting in the van with my colleagues, the tempter came. “What will happen to you and your friends when you are separated from your leader? You know the guards are going to keep your passports. What are you going to do when they take you to jail – on a weekend!” Calm on the outside but stirred up inside. And then I remembered the scripture I had read that morning, “My grace is sufficient for you…” (2 Corinthians 2:19 NRSV). The bread that I had eaten that morning was what I needed in that wilderness moment. I didn’t play the tempter’s game. Instead, I relied upon God to see me through the situation.
Jesus time and time again revealed that the words of God provide nourishment and sustenance for all that we encounter in life. During these 40 days of Lent – and beyond – may you feast on the words of God as you stand face-to-face with the tempter.