“Calling a HALT” (Kayla McClurg)

For Sunday, March 9, 2014 – Matthew 4:1-11

The 12-step movement suggests an acronym, HALT, to remind us to pay attention when we become Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. Unheeded, these natural human conditions can make us vulnerable to temptation. As ridiculous as it sounds, many of us try not to notice our needs. To admit that I get hungry, angry, lonely, tired—and the list goes on—is to acknowledge that I am a contingent being, leaning on a Power beyond me. No, not just leaning, but inexorably linked, totally dependent on currents beyond my own. HALT gives me permission—in fact, orders me—to stop and notice who I really am, fragile and limited, with awesome potential for connection. I will not overcome temptation through placing greater restrictions on myself, a common Lenten mistake, but by following my deeper intuition to embrace the disciplines that will help me “let go and let God.”

Jesus is driven into full HALT mode when the Spirit leads him into the wilderness. He experiences the whole pathetic chaos of the human condition. Our raging thirst for power, prestige and honor, our ravishing hunger for material goods and lives of ease, our desire to go it alone yet never be alone. It seems significant that Jesus, who certainly was no loner, who was known for sounding the call, “Follow me,” makes this sojourn without human companionship. All of us will face such times, when the crowded life must be left behind, when we must peer into the dark well of our own need, our lust for what we do not have, our weariness with what we do have, our temptation to do and be and possess far beyond our capacity, beyond God’s callings for us.

Maybe our temptation is to rise high above our plain existence, or maybe we are scrambling to win last place. Neither is the humble path. Kneeling in secret on stones and barbed wire will not prove our devotion any more than leading prayer groups on a luxurious Lenten cruise. The way is much harder and simpler: Call a HALT to life as usual. Say no to the sweet, sweet sounds of temptation, and yes to the One who made you and loves you still. Lose your idea of yourself in order to find God’s idea of yourself; become anonymous for the sake of learning your true name.

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