In the unfolding year, it always seems surprisingly early, like snowdrops…
Our kitchen reeks of pancakes after last night- I think I must have cooked about 100, for family, friends and house group in order to mark the beginning of a time when we need to get serious, intentional and reflective as we move towards Easter. For some this is marked by doing without- fasting from a food, or an activity. For others, we mark this time by doing something extra- committing ourselves to some regular meditation or act of service for example. Marking these yearly rhythms is increasingly important to me, not least because of the influence of a friend.
Over the last few days we have had an old friend staying with us, Maggy Cooper, who is a retreat leader at St Beuno’s Abbey, a Jesuit spiritual centre in North Wales made famous by the BBC programme ‘The Big Silence‘. Some of it has found it’s way onto you tube if you missed it- and it really is worth watching for anyone who is at all interested in the power of ancient traditions (I have blogged about it previously here.)
When we meet with old friends, we find ourselves looking back over our shared journeys. All those years where we have been challenged, encouraged, and laughed together. Also all those more subtle ways in which we influenced one another- the convergence of ideas and opinions, and ideas that, once shared, take on a deeper significance in our lives.
Maggy is one of those people for us, and it was great to see her again…
I know that strictly speaking lent ended yesterday- but here is the final piece from ’40’- Si Smith’s lovely images of Jesus in the wilderness, along with my words. It has been quite a journey. If you enjoyed it, then you can download or order a physical copy of it from Proost.
So, the journey continued- back into a world of men-
To all the homes and houses
And the broken down old shacks
To the Priests and the soldiers
To the slaves and the fat cats
To the athlete and the cripple
To the beggar and the king
To the broken and the dying
And those who have no song to sing
To the place where children squabble
And the old folk gossip in the square
And the singing from the synagogue
Calls the town for prayer
To all this living and this loving
This fecundity of life…
Now is your time my friends
Exhausted The man fell back into the dust
The desert once again pulled at his bones
It sucked at the moisture in his flesh
But this was not the end
It was a beginning
I serve only one master-
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me
He has sent me to the poor and the weak to tell them the good news
He has told me that it’s time to heal the broken hearted-
Shout freedom to all captives, and to break the chains of those you have bound
Now is the time of my fathers grace
And the destruction of your plans
And the stranger
With a howl of disgust the stranger turned again and took the man to a high place overlooking a huge city. So began the third attack
Look you fool- all this could be yours! You cower in the desert and but look- the whole world is at my feet!
I can give you anything you could ever want; Money, power, servants, fame, influence- are these things not necessary to complete this mission of yours?
Why not do things in style?
Why grovel in the dust when you can live like a King?
All I ask is this- do it MY way. Listen to me….
With flashing eyes the stranger turned away and in a blink of an eye the two men stood high on the temple roof looking down into the courtyard. And then, the second attack…
I don’t think you are Him at all! Look at you- standing there all weak at the knees!
If you are precious to your father, you could throw yourself from this place and the angels would catch you and float you down to the stone floor below.
GO on- DO it!
I must… not….test my father….
Now is your time, and mine.
The two men walk into the sun. So begins the first attack
Son of God- what a fool you are to suffer such hunger! You have the power to snuff out the sun, yet you go hungry? Perhaps you are not so strong after all?
If you were, you could turn this stone into bread, and we could sit down to sandwiches for lunch…
We need so much more than bread.
I am the bread of life, and I come to feed souls…
Suddenly he was not alone. Striding across the desert comes a stranger
There is something friendly and familiar about this man- he is cool and clean, and his voice is like butter
But beneath this fine exterior there lurks something else.
It is old- older than mankind
Look in his eyes and you can see the very depths of darkness and destruction-
Epidemics rage there
In the corner of his gaze, savage animals rip and claw at one another
And with a glance, arrows fly, and cannons spew fire and flame
And in the pool of his vision, men and women objectify one another
And lust for power and wealth and sex
Forests burn and rivers flow toxic from his tears.
Now he has a new mission…