Did you make pancakes this week? We love pancakes at the Vicarage and usually make a big deal of getting everyone’s favourite fillings* together on the table and then we share making them and eating them together. This year we did the pancake event two weeks early as it was important for us to all be together rather than on the right day. And that has been something that has happened time and time again this past year. We can’t celebrate when we want to. We can’t be with the people we want to be with. So much that is important about being family and community has been taken away by the pandemic.
This has all meant that the beginning of Lent and this week’s reading about Jesus going into the desert did not fill me with joy. As far as giving things up I made this poster for the outside of the church. If you don’t want to give up anything for Lent then this vicar is giving you permission because we have already given up so much this year.
One thing I’ve noticed this year is the speed at which our reading from Mark 1 9-15 goes from triumph to desolation. We hear about Jesus’ baptism and affirmation as the beloved son but next moment Jesus is driven into the desert to be tempted. This year I wanted Jesus to have a bit more of the good stuff before he was off to the long hard road in the desert. This may say more about me than the gospel but it is indicative of pandemic fatigue; that we are nearly a year into living with restrictions and lockdown.
Yet the desert is a powerful place of change and transformation. It is the place where the early church fathers ran to find Jesus when their world became too comfortable. It is the place where without distractions we are alone with God. It is the place where we are ourselves. We are ourselves without the social mask as there is no one to be social with. We are present before God as we are in all our imperfections and faults. No wonder the desert is a hard place and it is seem as a place to be avoided or rushed through.
As we begin to think about how we might find a new normal perhaps we might reflect on how the past year has been a desert. For many it has been very hard. Part of the recovery from trauma is to name what has been difficult. Others may well have had it harder but to deny that this last year has been costly will keep us in denial and out of touch with who we are as beloved children of God going through a unique moment in history.
If we can name what is costly we might be able to find some wisdom and truth in the desert. This isn’t easy but some questions to ask might be:
What have we learnt about ourselves?
What have been our distractions?
What were our temptations?
This is not easy work. We hear how in the desert the angels waited on Jesus so it is ok to find this hard.
The strange thing about trauma is that afterwards; after the frantic coping, the grieving and the lament there is the moment when we come out of the desert, the dark place and say ‘and yet.’ And yet I learnt that God is with me, and yet I learnt that I have good neighbours and yet I am more resilient that I thought I could be
Jesus went into the desert. After struggle and hard times he went into the next stage of his ministry. How might we learn from the desert experience we have been in and are perhaps still in and live in the next stage of our Christian lives?
If that feels very challenging it is worth remembering that in Charlie Mackesy’s book The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse, the boy asks the horse a question: “’What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said? asked the boy. ‘Help,’ said the horse.” If you are feeling in need of help, be brave and ask for it.
These words come from later in Jesus’ ministry ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’
Have a blessed, desert Lent
*butter and marmite in case you were wondering.
Mark 1.9-15In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’