WE are caught up between things. In Jesus everything has been accomplished, but his offering of himself is yet to be fully known by us. We are I suppose, caught between the theological understanding of the introduction of Sin into the world, and yet, not quite in full receipt of what it means when Paul writes, ‘just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all’.
We know Jesus, we know what he has accomplished in his passion, death and resurrection and as Christians living out his life and sharing in his Kingdom in this place, still, we anticipate life in its fullest measure, and what it will be. Yet we are not without glimpses into the yet to come, and we are not without insight and foretaste of a life fully lived and realised in God.
It’s rather obvious that as gardens decrease – urban and sandy deserts grow: wildernesses grow. In the last century the Sahara grew by 10%. All deserts grow by several meters each year covering about one-fifth of Earth’s land area and in all home to about 1 billion people.
On the other side of the spectrum, by human deforestation the Amazon Rainforest has shrunk by 20% in the last 50 years. And locally gardens are constantly decreasing in our desire for urban living. If we really think we were cast out of Eden, our vengeance on God’s paradise it seems has been to develop it – to bring in the rotavators, the bulldozers and to build testimonies to human accomplishment all over God’s love.
Today however, we think about one person in the desert space of the wilderness – himself caught between the beginning of all things in our world and the end of all things which preoccupy humanity as they do God. I cannot help but think of the irony, that as the gardens decrease and the deserts increase – we come to feel ever more lost in the wilderness spaces of this world, we, unlike Jesus who finds himself in the wilderness closer to God, we often remain lost, feeling ever more cut off from God who is close at hand.
Jesus enters the wilderness full of the Spirit of God. Jesus enters into the place where God is historically met with and known and he is filled with God, guided by God, living a life grounded in understanding God through Scripture and prayer. Jesus is integrated into the life of God and so, clothed with the authority of God to face up to sin, to face up to the distraction which will seek to take him away from God in the wilderness.
And what does Jesus say in the wilderness:
NO. He says NO. NO. NO
He says NO to a cheap trick to temporarily satisfy his hunger. He says NO to testing God. He says NO to his self-centred importance.
In the wilderness where you and I would say yes to anything. Jesus teaches us that we can say ‘no’ and in doing so, affirm our Yes to God, affirm our baptismal promises and hope in ourselves to know God better. Peter will say no three times, those three no’s deny his relationship with Jesus. Yet we are to learn that ‘no’ can bring us closer to the one who brings ‘life to all’, that is if we say no to the right things. Jesus in denying Sin to allow him to be distracted from his relationship with the Father, says no three times, and those three words do everything to affirm his sonship, his relationship and his love of God.
With Jesus we are co-heirs, with Jesus we are children of the same heavenly father. With Jesus in the wilderness – we are called this Lent to remember the relationship we have with God cannot be distracted from by something we think is more interesting than God – especially as the wilderness is getting every greater in the world and the closeness to God ever more distant for some.
Lent is about you… and your relationship with God so that you do not become victim of that which is gripping our world – the great nothingness which is rendering many lost, wondering aimlessly between forest and desert.
God meets us in the wilderness… Do the people of the Ukraine think God is absent? Do the people suffering in Syria or Turkye think God is absent? Do those living with Famine think God is absent? Do I think God is absent. No. No. No.
God is here. God is with us. Glimpses of God are revealed in our scriptures. The life of God is revealed in the Sacrament of the Altar. God is revealed in the faith of the families and children preparing for Communion before Confirmation. God’s life is revealed in the Toddler Group and the warm welcome many of you gave to those who attended on Friday. God is revealed in love to an octogenarian last Sunday and the toddler baptised at Mass. The Love of God is revealed to those who walked with Jesus the Stations of the Cross on Friday. The Love of God is revelled in the Parsnip Soup I have made for the Lent course. The love of God is revealed in the Aching Heart Service this evening contemplating loss of Children and the thoughts and meditations of those unable to bear children and awesomely the someone who you will embrace in a moment at the peace reminds you that you are not alone in this wilderness.
The Wilderness might be a great expanse and Eden might have a Tower block built upon it. But Jesus reminds us – we have agency to be in relationship with God. You might not turn stones to bread, be saved by angels or rule the kingdoms, but in scripture, prayer and the sacrament of this altar, you can return to knowing God. Amen