Tag Archives: Christ in the Wilderness

Alone With God

Alone,
with God,
with myself,
with my demons.

Faced with the stark realities
of my life.

Where do I put my trust,
where do I look for nourishment,
where do I seek validation?

Do I try to live without God?
Filling my life with stuff
that fails to satisfy?

Do I think I can look after myself?
Or trust God to rescue me
when I have got myself into a mess?
Or do I seek him first,
before I jump?

Do I want to test God?
To see how far I can push him?
How far I can go?

Do I put my trust
in the wrong things?
Am I distracted by the shiny,
and lose my focus on God?

Lord,
this lent,
I want to walk with these questions,
to come again
to you.

Deepen my trust,
my faith,
my worship,
my service,
I pray

Matthew 4:1-11 (GNT)

The Temptation of Jesus

Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Devil. After spending forty days and nights without food, Jesus was hungry. Then the Devil came to him and said, “If you are God’s Son, order these stones to turn into bread.”

But Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’”

Then the Devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, the Holy City, set him on the highest point of the Temple, and said to him, “If you are God’s Son, throw yourself down, for the scripture says,

‘God will give orders to his angels about you;
    they will hold you up with their hands,
    so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones.’”

Jesus answered, “But the scripture also says, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Then the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness. “All this I will give you,” the Devil said, “if you kneel down and worship me.”

10 Then Jesus answered, “Go away, Satan! The scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’”

11 Then the Devil left Jesus; and angels came and helped him.

Good News Translation (GNT)

Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society

 

Being With

In the ‘Afterword’, Cottrell speaks of Stanley Spencer,

He started to see the everyday life and activities of the village as sacred, as revealing the presence and purposes of God (p93)

God is everywhere and in  everything. He is not kept in a box for special occasions, or only in certain special places.

He also came to the realisation that,

In the eyes of God, all work is of equal importance (p93)

Everything we do is done in God’s service – God is in everything we do, not just what we think of as the “holy” bits, because In God’s service everything should be done to his glory.  We do not need to long for a “better” service, we can serve God where we are. What we are called, or asked to do, should be done showing that we love him.  Brother Lawrence is cited as reminding us that, ‘common business’, no matter how mundane, could be a medium for God’s love, including this brilliant quote from The Practice of the Presence of God:

It is not needful to have great things to do.  I turn my little omelette in the pan for the love of God.  When it is finished, if I have nothing to do, I prostrate myself on the ground and worship my God, who gave me the grace to make it, after which I arise happier than a king.  When I can do nothing else, it is enough to have picked up a straw for the love of God (p96)

This is the challenge for us – sometimes a huge challenge, to see God in all things, to live for God in all things.

In Spencer’s paintings, we have seen Jesus amongst the flowers, the potentially dangerous scorpion, the foxes, and wrapping his arms of love around the hen and her brood.  This is God with us.

And perhaps that is the ongoing message of Lent.  We have spent some time set aside, been in the wilderness and been stripped bare, but all that is to enable us to live life, to be a part of, to be amongst, as Jesus was.  His time in the wilderness was not the end, but the beginning of his ministry, a time of equipping – from which he then had to go out and be with.  To show people God’s love, God’s life, in the special times, but more in the ordinary times.  When they were at work, struggling with illness, questioning on what really mattered in life,.  Jesus was there amongst them, and that is our calling too – to be amongst people and show God’s love and hope to them.  We are not to shut our faith away, save it for Sundays or special places. It is to be lived where we are, where other people are.

Whatever you do, you’re doing it for God.  As Cottrell reminds us, every place is a place of encounter (p98).

Cottrell points us to this hymn

I have really enjoyed this book and found it really helpful. Many thanks to Stephen Cottrell for the insights and especially Stanley Spencer for the paintings.

This year for Lent, I am reading Christ in the Wilderness by Bishop Stephen Cottrell, published by SPCK, reflecting on Stanley Spencer’s paintings of that title.

I’m not necessarily going to blog every day on it, just when something leaps out at me – and they will be thoughts rather than full blog posts

Wilderness Times

For Christians this wilderness is a place of discovery (p88)

Amen and amen.  No one wants to be in the wilderness, we would rather be in a place of comfort and pleasure.  But it is in the wilderness we learn who and what matters.  What will support and sustain us.  Who we can rely on.

I once spent several months, deep in my own wilderness.  I won’t go into detail, but it was a place where no one could reach me.  I was functioning of a sort, but I was lost and lonely.  Things that I had been ignoring finally reared their head and had to be dealt with.  I always explain it as all the stuff that I had been just pushing under the carpet, pretending they weren’t there, that they didn’t matter – well I turned round and fell over that pile I had buried there.  It was not a good place to be, but it was the place I finally had to confront what had happened, how I really felt, and what I was going to do about it now.

I discovered a lot about myself, and that time went a long way to making me the person I am now, and informing how I deal with other people.  I matured a lot.  I learned things weren’t black and white.  I learned that however sore and tender scars are, better to know them than ignore them.  Even as I came out of the wilderness, the scars are still there, and I think for me need to be, but I have learned to live with them (most of the time) by acknowledging them.  That was something I never did while I was living life pretending everything was alright.  It was only in going into the wilderness that made me face up to what was going on, sweep out the pile, and start to sort it.

I would have much preferred not to go there, but once there, I knew I had to stay there, confront stuff and sort it out, otherwise I would be no good to anyone or myself.  I guess it was my broken and being remoulded.

But I knew the arms of God around me.  Giving me the space to allow me to break apart and come back together again.

The Hand of God by Rodin By Yair Haklai (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

It was the time when I grew to love the end of Habakkuk:

Trust in a Time of Trouble

17 Fig trees may no longer bloom,
or vineyards produce grapes;
olive trees may be fruitless,
and harvest time a failure;
sheep pens may be empty,
and cattle stalls vacant—
18 but I will still celebrate
because the Lord God
saves me.
19 The Lord gives me strength.
He makes my feet as sure
as those of a deer,
and he helps me stand
on the mountains.

The wilderness doesn’t always give us answers or make all things right, but it gives us knowledge of what is, how things are.  Broken I might be, but God will give me the strength to stand secure.

In Jesus arms in the picture of The Hen, there is a space.  God’s love and care is not crushing or suffocating, but makes a space in which we are safe for whatever to happen.  Like the chick in the picture stretching its wings to see if it can fly.  We know that God is there, wrapping his arms around us, watching over us, loving us.

I’m not sure I sat down to tell you any of that, but that’s what happens with art and a well written reflective book…

Hope it makes some sense and helps in the lenten, and lifetime, journey of discovery 🙂

These thoughts are reflecting on Stanley Spencer’s painting The Hen (seen here).

This year for Lent, I am reading Christ in the Wilderness by Bishop Stephen Cottrell, published by SPCK, reflecting on Stanley Spencer’s paintings of that title.

I’m not necessarily going to blog every day on it, just when something leaps out at me – and they will be thoughts rather than full blog posts