Rector's Ramblings: February 21st 2021

 

 

Where do the weeks go? Here we are already at the first Sunday of Lent. The Bible reading set for this day always brings us to Jesus temptation in wilderness. I wondered whether this year we identify more than usual with sense of being in wilderness, not just for 40 days but for close on year.

   We have asked all sorts of questions in this past year: ‘When will it be back to normal?’ ‘Will I still have a job?’ ‘What effect will it have on my children?’ ‘When can I have my hair cut again?’ ‘When can we meet in real life and not on Zoom?’ ‘Is the infection rate coming down?’ ‘What about the vaccine?’ And many more – question after question in this wilderness time. Yet many will have faded from memory despite seeming so important at time.

     I invite us in this limited Lenten wilderness to ask some deeper, far deeper, questions.

      •       Who is Jesus?

      •       Who am I? What is my identity?

      •       What do we depend on?

      •       What are we here for?

Who is Jesus?     

   At this point, do read today’s gospel: Mark1:9-15. It starts with Jesus’ baptism. He hears God his Father saying ‘You are my Son whom I love; with you I am well pleased’. As Jesus is about to start his public ministry, he is affirmed and enfolded in God’s love. Jesus’ identity is again laid out – he is God’s Son.

Who am I? What is my identity?

     We are encouraged to learn to live in light of Jesus; to know that those words are addressed to us as well: God says to each of us “you are my daughter, my son whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” For that is who we are. There lies the answer to our identity. We are God’s precious child. It is the most amazing statement. It is tough to grasp, particularly for those who not well affirmed in childhood by earthly parents. But sit with those words – say them to yourself and ask the Lord to help you to let that truth in.

   It is a more secure identity than any we build up for ourselves based on our work, family, friendships and so on. This is who we are believe it or not.......

What do we depend on?

     From baptism, the Holy Spirit sent Jesus out into desert. He has to do the work of desert time. For those 40 days and throughout his life, Jesus depended on God alone for safety and for sustenance – resourced by the knowledge of his Sonship and the love of his Father.

   We are not Jesus and my guess is that we find it less easy to depend on God alone. We rely on all sorts of other things. Not bad things in themselves perhaps but we rely on them instead of God.  Throughout this pandemic, it has been brought home to me how helpless, how helpless I am to change things.  I’ve been taken back to the prophet Isaiah who says ‘In rest and repentance is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength’

   Somehow, I long to learn to trust as I pray ‘give us this day our daily bread’ - not all that I need for the long term future. To learn to trust that he will guide, whatever, and that all is safe in his hands even if he doesn’t do what I would do if I were him.  This learning to be dependent on God is the origin of giving things up for Lent. It’s brought home to us how tricky to give up even booze and chocs!

What are we here for?

   For Jesus, this was a real wrestling with Satan given in detail in Matthew and Luke: to do magic/miracles to impress (the odd thunderbolt job please to convince); to give food to world (why not?); to share power with Satan who would give all him all the world (though it was not Satan’s to give). No. His path was to Gethsemane, Calvary and also the Garden of Resurrection.  Jesus accepts the path he must take to reunite God and humanity and all of creation. Put baldly this is what he was here for: ‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God’ (1 Pet 3:18) Jesus can take this path and do it because he knows that enfolding love of Father and trusts it, and because he too loves this wonderful world that is God’s.

     What are we here for? We all have unique contribution to make to our world so I can’t give detail as all of us are different. It’s about accepting we are here to do God’s will, not to live just for ourselves; to be transformed more into Jesus’ likeness; to be lights to world;  to be signposts to point in some small way to our Father.

      In short, I would answer this question in the words of Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)

         “Teach us, good Lord to serve thee as thou deservest,

         to give and not to count the cost;

         to fight and not to heed the wounds;

         to toil and not to seek for rest;

         to labour and not to ask for any reward;

         except that of knowing that we do thy will.  Amen.”

       Will we wrestle with these questions this Lent as Jesus did? They are, I suggest, more important than any other.