St Johns, Johnsonville and Holy Trinity, Ohariu
PSALM 25: 1-10, MARK 1:9-15
Today as you may have realised is the first Sunday of Lent. It marks the time that Jesus was preparing to start his public ministry. To accept his nature of being fully God but also fully human he was baptised in the Jordan. He was then led into the wilderness by the Spirit, a place where he was tested both physically and spiritually…tested by hardship and temptation….This is what I want to talk about this morning.
Like Jesus each of us has our wilderness…places that we do not wish to go, places where we find ourselves and not understanding fully how we got there.
These places could be people we do not wish to see or be involved with
thoughts that we do not wish to hear
memories or events that we wish to hide from as they are too painful to recall
even our own actions and behaviours that we find unworthy
We all have these places…..
A wilderness is where nothing can grow to its own potential….where life is at a bare existence.. it is barely scraping by….things are stunted, undernourished and it’s a struggle to survive from day to day…..there is no joy in life, no help, no love, no hope….
Even in our daily lives, in the goodness and beauty of God’s creation, in the abundance of this fortunate land…..even in the midst of this there is poverty of sustenance but more important there is poverty of soul, there is loneliness of spirit , in the crowds in our streets there are people who feel alone, people who feel unloved….We do not know the wilderness of even the person sitting next to us in church this morning, what they are experiencing and the struggles they have…people have become very skilled at hiding things.
So we try to escape from the wilderness, this place where life is a struggle…yet often in trying to escape all we do is to head deeper and deeper into its midst where in desperation we grasp any opportunity to relieve our burden….we succumb to any temptation that gives us relief however fleeting….but the root cause against which we struggle ….and the despair remains.
These temptations on which we may pin our hopes can come in many forms. We live in an age where the opportunities for distraction are wide and varied. We can participate in multiple activities, we are all busy, but busy with what…we have many sources to find easy credible excuses or practised reasons as to why we cannot face what we must. We compromise and get side-tracked for there is no solid base for our judgement…it is all too difficult, requires too much effort…and it can expose our vulnerability.
And this lack of joy in life reflects in our faith. We compromise what and who we are in our church.
It just all becomes too much.
So what do we do and where do we go……where can we find the starting point to leave the wilderness of our making…? Where is the light and the love of God that we often say we rely on….where is the path that we need to journey.
In the Psalm reading this morning David gave us the answer…a very clear answer and a clear direction…the first step that we need to take…he simply said “Unto thee O Lord, do I lift my soul” That’s it…that is all it takes to start….to surrender to God that which he already holds yet that which we are too often scared to admit. We are never alone…we should never ever feel that we are left in the wilderness. It just takes an active prayerful statement. In lifting your soul to God you have not only admitted your need for help but have also acknowledged his love. God has never left you…we read in the scriptures that God has known us by name before we were even born…..he sees who we are and how at times we struggle…. Our soul is his gift but it is also our essence, our very being…it is who and what we are both in and outside this world. If our soul is loved and set right then nothing can overwhelm us.
And David then gives us the next steps…the psalm continues with David asking for help…not just for God to make it right but an active participation from David Verse 4 “show me thy ways oh Lord”…”teach me thy paths”…..”lead me in thy Truth”
This is the teaching of the Gospels before the Gospels were ever written…..it is the unchanging nature of God….all we have to do is to ask. And perhaps what is even harder….ask your family here in St John’s for help when you need it….it is not easy….but what is asked for in need will be responded to in love. We are a Christian family not only in word but also in deed….we are all on the journey together….and all of us or will pass through our own wilderness…but we do not have to stay there…
Lent is a good time for us to quietly contemplate what our faith means to us and how we respond to it….are we better Christians this year as compared to last…do we start each day by lifting our souls to God…?…Do we live our faith rather than just say it?
At Vestry last Thursday night, Ben asked each of us as to how we were preparing through Lent for Easter. We went round the table and your Vestry members were able to articulate how they were daily progressing and learning in the faith of the church and how this was adding to the family of God. When it came to me my response was “I got nuttin”… Probably not one of my better moments …but it is true..I had become too busy at work and ironically in the church doing stuff that I had let slip what is perhaps the most important thing in my life….to reconnect with God….to give myself the time to think about where I am in my faith and where I am going…..to put aside all the distractions and temptations of everyday life…to effectively to take the time to be good to myself by thinking on God…to leave the wilderness and to say like David “Unto the O Lord, do I lift my soul”
So to help me in my journey through Lent…can I ask each of you to deliberately take aside some time each day to pray for each other and more especially to pray for yourselves that God will Lift up your soul, that He will show you His way and that He will teach you, guide you and instruct you. For in your soul there is your life.
Yet above all, may you know that you are never alone and are loved beyond all our understanding