In response to the devil’s first temptation at the end of his 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus says, quoting Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 8.3: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’
Have you thought about what you might do for Lent this year? Today as in the past, perhaps the most popular response has been to change our eating habits: to eat less in total (in terms of what we eat at each meal, or maybe missing a meal altogether), or to eat less of particular foods, in particular ‘rich’ foods (meat, alcoholic drinks, chocolate). And of course, that fits with the biblical texts that provide part of the inspiration for the church’s season of Lent: Jesus fasting in the wilderness.
That verse from Deuteronomy seems to me to be an important clue as to why Jesus fasted, and why we might follow his example: to remind us that our life, our true life, is bound up with listening to the word of God, day by day, moment by moment. Yes, our bodies need physical sustenance, but to be fully alive we don’t just need that. We need to be listening to God, and acting on what we hear, with reverence and joy.
Our parish Lent course this year is all about helping us to do this, by looking at the ancient Christian practice of ‘lectio divina’. It’s a way of reading Scripture that opens up what God is saying to each one of us here and now, in the unique circumstances of our lives. If we are to live by ‘every word that comes from the mouth of God’, then we need to know the words of Scripture, treasure them, meditate on them, pray with and through them, and receive what the Spirit is saying to us in them today. I’m really looking forward to exploring this with a group this Lent through the Lectio course.
Whether or not you’re able to join a group, I hope you can do something for Lent this year that will enable you to give time for listening to ‘every word that comes from the mouth of God’. God’s word is for all, and it’s for each one of us. It’s ‘life and joy and peace’ (to quote Wesley’s hymn), but to receive that we have to listen, with patience, attentiveness, repentance and love.