Body and Blood of Christ


Drinking Well

1st Sunday of Lent March 1st 2009

In the Downturn, Trust


    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."                                                                                                                        

Mark 1:12-15



Lent came early for many people this year. The economic downturn has driven them into a wilderness - a wilderness of fear and anxiety about job losses, disappearing savings and house repossessions.  This wilderness is devastating for those who have lost their jobs or large amounts of their savings. As we come to realise how far reaching the downturn is, we know that in different ways we are all in this wilderness together. I invite you to reflect on the experience Jesus had in the wilderness for forty days; I believe it will help us to make our way through the present downturn.

The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness.       

We cannot say that the Spirit led us into this economic downturn. What led us into it mayJesus was Tempted have been personal and corporate greed, extravagant living, and the failures of those who lead us in the world of economics and finance. Yet there is a larger and more far reaching Providence that uses these sins and failures to bring us to a place where we see our lives in a new light and choose to live accordingly.

What do we really want?

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has this advice for us in the downturn: Jesus was Tempted“Take time to get clear what really matters to you and what you really want; if we do this we end up with a much richer and more exciting sense of what it is to be human.”  I thought of this early in the New Year when I heard a lady telling of her experience of playing Santa in her community centre: “The man who was to play Santa didn’t turn up. They said to me, ‘You can stand if for him.’ I’m a big woman, that’s why they asked me.  When I was sitting on the chair in my Santa suit, the first little boy came up.  I said to him, ‘What do you want for Christmas?’ ‘I want my Daddy to come home,’ he said.’” This story reminded me of the words of the Bible: Man does not live on bread alone.  While children all around him were dreaming of toys, this child had a deeper need that no toy could satisfy.

Trust in the wilderness.

What the Spirit asked of Jesus in the wilderness was trust – trust that his Father would provide and bring him out of the wilderness in his own good time. Jesus was reliving the experience of his ancestors who were in the wilderness with Moses for forty years. What they did badly, he did well. They refused to trust; they complained constantly, and at their lowest point they made a false god made out of the gold they had brought from Egypt and they worshipped it. 

Wild beasts threatening us                                             
Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness and there were wild beasts threatening him. In the downturn wilderness we too may face wild beasts of fear, frustration and despair.  We may be tempted to lose faith and to give up, tempted to become bitter and resentful, tempted to turn in on ourselves and to watch out for ourselves only, tempted in extreme situations to do damage to other people or to ourselves.

Angels looking after us 

But there were angels there to look after Jesus.  For us too there will be angels in the form of good people - family, friends, and maybe even strangers - who will look out for us and give us the practical help and encouragement we will need. Our guardian angels will be there too.

For Jesus the wilderness was Jesus was Temptednot a dead end but a new beginning.  The Spirit who led him into it, also led him out of it to begin a most important time of his life: the three years of preaching and healing. Our economic downturn is not for ever. We trust that God in his wise and loving providence will lead us through it to a wiser and better way of living.

When the Israelites came out of the wilderness, Moses reminded them that God had looked after them all through those forty years: he had fed them with manna; their clothes had not worn out and their feet did not swell. Moses then gave them a promise and a warning. God was bringing them to a good land where they would want for nothing. He warned them not forget that it was God who was providing.  Otherwise “you may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me. But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the power to get wealth.’” (Deut 8). We will trust in God when times are hard and we will remember him when these times pass.

Prayer: Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth."     

Brendan Clifford


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