Into the Wilderness: Lenten Reflections

The Christian season of Lent begins this week, and with it, the practice of tending more intentionally to our spiritual lives. The PiE community has been interested in exploring the intersections of faith and climate change, ecology and spirituality, so we are offering weekly reflections on these themes this year.

We invite you to join us each week as we pray and reflect with the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, in conversation with our current relationship to the land, the climate crisis, and the wisdom of the book “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer. 

Week One: Entering the Wilderness

We must say the universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.”
– Thomas Berry

In English, you are either a human or a thing….. ‘Wouldn’t things be different if nothing was an it?’”
– Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass


When we take in Bible stories, we often miss noticing the creatures or beings beyond human characters. What might emerge if we began to notice these missed elements? 

In the Gospel of Matthew, after Jesus experiences the Holy Spirit descending upon him like a dove and declaring him the beloved one of God, this same Spirit leads him into the wilderness. This wilderness typically means very little to us beyond serving as a backdrop for Jesus’ temptations. 

I think of it almost as an absence of anything. Jesus, alone in the middle of nowhere, focused on fasting and prayer. There is reason that we have thought of it this way. Consider this image of the Judean desert which may be similar to where Jesus was.

But surely there is no such thing as ‘nowhere’ from an ecological perspective. Jesus was present to a very particular place during those 40 days. There were particular rocks, soils, animals, perhaps meadow grass and other plants, sharing those days with him. Jesus was anything but alone. He was being held, supported, perhaps encouraged by this wilderness. He was experiencing communion, just not with other humans. 

Could it be that Jesus’ capacity to pray for 40 days and be grounded in the face of temptation came from this spiritual community of the wilderness?

As we enter into this Lenten season, consider if you have any experience of wilderness in your life. How is your ‘wilderness’ supporting you in spiritual exploration?

Practices for the Week:

Notice:

  • Practice shifting your awareness from seeing the world around you as as collection of objects to seeing yourself in a diverse communion of subject.
  • As you walk places this week, take notice of the trees, plants, rocks, creatures that you encounter.
  • Try greeting them like you might a friend, observe them, noticing their particularities.
  • Offer a daily prayer of gratitude for this wider community.
  • Listen for what God might be teaching you through your observations.

Imagine:

  • Join Jesus in the wilderness. What might that place look like to you? What kind of plants and animals might be present or not?
  • How does your soul respond to this imagined place?
  • What is the Spirit inviting you to through this wilderness?
Interpretation of Jesus in the Wilderness by Stanley Spencer