The first Sunday in Lent, if you’re following the lectionary, always finds Jesus wandering in the wilderness and being tempted by the Devil. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all share this story (with some slight variations) and it is a fitting start to Lent. For forty days, we wander alongside Christ, many practicing fasting and self-denial.
Last year, the altarscape I created for this particular Sunday in Lent was pretty barren. The notion of the wilderness, of wandering the wilderness really spoke to me.
But this year, the first of Jesus’ three temptations in the wilderness captured my imagination. How often have we found ourselves wandering a spiritual wilderness. Maybe we didn’t even know that’s where we were until we felt those first pangs of hunger, the pangs that grew deeper the more we wandered. Those pangs become cravings, and soon we find ourselves willing to do just about anything to sate them.
I imagined Jesus sitting at the table. Satan sitting across from him. The table’s been laid with a plate, surrounded by rocks. There’s a little candlelight.
“I know you’re hungry,” Satan taunts. “Just take one of those rocks and turn it into bread. I know you can. You know you can. Just do it, already.”
I included the bottles because, as I was imagining this scene, my mind wandered toward the crucifixion: “I thirst.”
Here’s how to put it together:
Start with your table and put a tablecloth on it. I chose a fabric that has a texture similar to burlap. Textured fabric is a great way to create depth in an altarscape. (PRO TIP: I’m won’t lie to you. I’m a little…particular. So the wrinkles in the fabric are the kind that could drive me batty. But during the season of Lent, they work to our advantage. It’s a season of imperfection. Wrinkles, stray threads, and raw edges fit the season.)
I retrieved my trusty hymnals to add a little height, then covered with a stone-colored fabric.
I found some old bottles in one of the church closets (PRO TIP: Rummage through the closets and forgotten places in your church building. You’ll be surprised what you can find!).
Next, I added a plate. Y’all. It’s a big plate. By using a overly large plate, it’s emptiness is highlighted.
I found some sheer, shiny fabric that catches and plays with the lights that streams through our two-story tall windows. I wrapped it around the plate and draped it off the front of the table. This fabric will show up a couple of times through Lent. PRO TIP: Using the same elements multiple times through a season weaves a thread that connects the Sundays together.
The final touches were to add a candle (pointing to the seduction of temptation and just how easy it is for us to romanticize it) and some rocks (Jesus’ potential food).