Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Through The Wilderness

The old Humphrey Bogart movie Casablanca is a great film to think about over Lent, as it is set in a kind of a wilderness: a staging post for refugees moving on from Occupied France, hoping to get to somewhere better. Sadly, seventy years later, this is still happening, but that's not my point today.

When we think of being in the wilderness, we are inclined to think of loneliness and deprivation, I suspect. Yet to the Jews of Jesus' day, the wilderness was a reminder of the Moses story.

Moses fled to the wilderness from the fleshpots of Egypt, and there found God in a burning bush. He later led the Israelites through the wilderness to the Promised Land, via Mt Sinai where the Law was given to Moses by God. For the Jews the wilderness is a place to meet God, to go back to basics, and to be transformed.

Just as Moses was transformed from a violent murderer into a (reluctant) bringer of freedom to his people, and as the Israelites were transformed from a rabble of slaves to a nation marching into their new homeland, so we can find our mission and our calling as we travel through our wilderness this Lent.

For Jesus the wilderness was a place to work out his mission. He had been affirmed by God at his baptism, "You are my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased," now he needed to work out what being God's Son looked like in practice.

Should he seek power to make changes? Should he demonstrate God's provision by ensuring he had plenty himself? Should he give public demonstrations of God's miraculous power, to convince the sceptics? Or should he serve and give hope to the poor whilst challenging the rich and powerful, leading the way through consequent suffering and death to resurrection?

I'm not sure what my wilderness is this Lent. I realise that this is leaving things more than a little late, but I suspect the Holy Spirit will find a way. I am sure that I, like you, have a calling, a commission, to serve and to bring hope, to challenge and to bring change. And that I, like you, am affirmed by God: "You are my child, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."

May your Lent be hopeful and productive, and may your year ahead be a fruitful one.

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