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Day 1—Ash Wednesday, February 14

Matthew 4:1-4

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

The devil appears to Jesus while he is in a state of hunger and weakness. The devil attempts to use Jesus’ five senses against him, maybe assuming he will give into the primal desires when he is at his weakest. We all know what that feels like. It is why most diet plans don’t work, because when you are denied food, extreme hunger takes over! Then all you can think of is devouring that greasy burger, and the only thing standing in your way is placing an order to Door Dash.

But Jesus is Jesus, he is Lord. He lives on the Word of God, not the carrot the world dangles. The tempter’s tricks won’t work on him. But he also has been out in the wilderness in isolation! Your senses may come to life when you see the riches of the city below or smell the greasy burger, but they also come to life in the dirt and the dust of the wilderness.

The gospel of Mark tells the story of Jesus’ time in the wilderness in these few words … At once the Spirit brought him into the desert, where he was tempted by Satan for 40 days. He was there with the wild animals, and the angels took care of him. - Mark 1:12-13 

THAT’S IT?! He was out there for 40 days! These are very few details of such an extended sabbatical in the woods. A wonderful cartoon video exists that gives a deeper view into what those days may have been like for Jesus. I show it to the kids every Lent. You can view it at this link –

You see in the video Jesus’ senses are alive! He gazes at the sunset, plays in the dirt, delights in the animals, feels the pain of the world, feels his own aches, pains, and needs …. ALIVE! He is alive in the wilderness!

I know that “alive wilderness” feeling too. But, unlike Jesus, I also know the temptation to own and control things. But I can honestly say none of those temptations compare to what happened to my heart and senses on my sabbatical in the wilderness with friends on the trail, with my dog on the canals, and with my daughter on a remote, rugged island. The dirt, the dust, the craggy bog are more precious than any prestige, any shiny jewel of a city, and more real than any Instagram-able glamour. Truth is revealed when our hands are in dirt, that dirt from which we came. Maybe that is why Jesus took to the wilderness.

On this Ash Wednesday, know you are from the dust and to the dust you will return. But in between those two dates of dust to dust, get in that dusty dirt that your Lord has given you, let your senses come alive with the gifts from God, resist needing more of everything else, and just find joy in what you taste, see, smell, and hear all around you. Play in the dirt and know your Lord played their too and that he saw it as good, better than anything any other gods could throw our way. Amen.

-Leigh Sackett



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