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“My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for testing,” wrote the ancient Jewish teacher, Ben Sirach.
These words might make a fitting summary of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. From his first three temptations in the wilderness to his last seven words on Calvary, his entire life was, as John Calvin once observed “a kind of perpetual cross.” And, yet, when we meet Jesus making wine for a wedding party or on a hillside inviting children to share their laughter and play, we are struck immediately not by a dour expression, but by the face of compassion, joy and love, by his willingness to forgive and heal and gently instruct.
The Lenten Lands into which we are entering take us deep into the life and teachings of Jesus and into the most profound wisdom of the ages. The disciplines of habit, prayer and study to which we commit ourselves in these brief weeks are directed to a specific end: that we might emerge in the unshakable joy for which each of us was created as human beings.
Testing comes. That we know. But joy comes to those who wait.