Dessert wilderness with tree in foreground

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Our pastor was on vacation this week.

When I saw the bulletin for this morning’s service, I thought: Will we ever get out of the fourth chapter of Luke? Is something going on, or is this just what happens when pastors are ill or on vacation and guest preachers substitute during Lent?

Did Jesus wonder whether he would ever get out of that wilderness, too?

As it turned out, we ended up thinking more about stories than anything else. The pastor of the day pointed out that Jesus’ saying “no” to Satan about the power and authority Satan offers him in Luke 4:5-8 has everything to do with his “calling.”

A “calling” is a “purpose,” yes – and in Jesus’ case, since his purpose was/is ultimately to have power and authority over all of creation, it was presumably tempting to short-circuit the whole lengthy process of human life-in-ministry, especially with its excruciating parts, and just jump to the power and authority over all of creation end of the story.

But as the pastor pointed out, Jesus’ calling was really more than just an aim, a purpose to be fulfilled, no matter how. His calling was everything: everything about his life, the things he said and who he said them to, the people he met and interacted with and the impact he had on them, the whole story.

We can think of our own calling that way, in fact: what is the whole story to which we are being called?

He illustrated the point with his own “call story” – involving a dramatic change from the life that had been mapped out for him by his family and his community’s expectations to where he is now.

A calling is really much bigger than a purpose. It’s a whole story. We may not be able to see all of it at once, but it includes those twists and turns, those unexpected changes in direction, those specific individuals to be met and specific places to be lived in and specific lessons to be learned and so on and on …

We could think of a congregation’s calling that way, too: what is the story so far, how does that story prepare a congregation for its next steps, its own unique mission? Because presumably it does, and knowing that story helps give people a better sense of direction, of mission.

The matter of personal stories really touched something for everyone.

We kept talking about those stories in the class that meets afterwards. People got on the topic of family stories – who knows them, which ones matter to us, where do they come from, who tells them, do they include how God has intersected with or worked in our lives, do we tell our kids those stories … or, perhaps, live through them together …

This is what tradition is, of course: being part of a story like that, and passing that story on.

In that sense, I suppose, we will never get out of the fourth chapter of Luke. Or any of the other chapters, either. We will never get out of that story. Thank God.

Dessert wilderness with tree in foreground

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