St Francis, Terriers - Lent 1 (14.02.2016)8:00am

Tony Dickinson

Our readings this morning take us in opposite directions. In our first reading Moses looks forward to the Israelites’ future after they have left the wilderness. In today’s gospel, Jesus heads back into the wilderness for a time of testing. It is, at first sight, a slightly strange coupling, but it makes a degree of sense.

Both readings reflect where we are at the beginning of Lent. We have just set out on a journey into bleakness. We have begun a time of trial which will end by confronting us with the realities of suffering and death. But we do so knowing that beyond this wilderness there is more, the land of God’s promise, the land of our inheritance. We do so knowing that the trials and tests which confront us, the dangerous delusions which threaten to obstruct our progress and to lead us astray from the right path, as they threatened Jesus – that they are just that, delusions.

Their names are prosperity, power and celebrity (or notoriety). They are the delusions which draw young men (and women) to throw in their lot with so-called Islamic state.

They are the delusions which feed the follies of the City of London and the world’s financial markets. They are the delusions which lead politicians to spend billions of pounds on an unusable weapons system instead of fulfilling the first duty of government, which is to protect the poor and the powerless.

The way of Jesus does not skirt around these delusions, but those who travel it name them for what they are and find the resources to defeat them, the tools to weaken and ultimately overthrow their power to harm. Those tools are: first, the cultivation of the same attitude of thankfulness and hope we find in our first reading, an attitude summed up in the words of the great Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld: “For all that has been, thanks. To all that shall be, yes”; and second, the cultivation of a radical trust in God, fed by his word to us in Scripture and reinforced by our growth in relationship with his living Word, Jesus the Christ. To him, with the Father…