Church of England Diocese of London St. Aldhelm, Edmonton

Sunday 21 February - Lent 1

21 Feb 2021, 11 a.m.

“And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”

In the name…

We are in the wilderness.

There’s an argument that we are always in the wilderness. That being separated from God, stuck in this earthly reality until the coming of the kingdom, until we can see God face to face, that this life is the wilderness.

It’s a fair point.

But the wilderness I’m talking about is Lent.

Lent – like Jesus, we get 40 days.

Like Jesus, we get tempted.

Like Jesus, if all goes well, we resist that temptation.

And maybe, like Jesus, at the end of our time in the wilderness, there is a chance we might also emerge with a clearer sense of what it is we should be doing, a clearer understanding of who we are and what God wants from us.

The wilderness is an interesting place in the Bible. Landscape in the Bible is often full of meaning and significance – last week I preached about mountains and how mountains are often the setting of encounters with God, and the wilderness is also significant.

The wilderness is a place of danger – we see that in the wild animals that Jesus faces in his time there.

It’s also a place of hardship – John the Baptist wasn’t eating locusts and wild honey for fun, that’s all he had.

It’s a place where people lose their way – remember, Moses and the people of Israel spent 40 years lost in the wilderness. Israel is quite a small place – under normal circumstances I don’t think it would be possible to get lost for 40 years - something strange was going on in that wilderness.

The wilderness – it’s a hard, dangerous and confusing place.

And it’s the setting for spiritual conflict. Jesus encounters Satan. The Israelites lose heart, lose faith. John the Baptist living in the wilderness, challenges everyone who comes to him to repent.

But, even though it’s a place of spiritual conflict, of hardship and challenge, it is also a place where we find God.

It is from the wilderness that the prophets proclaim the coming of the Messiah.

It is in the wilderness that God speaks to Moses from the burning bush.

It is in the wilderness that God works miracles for the people of Israel, feeding them, going before them in a cloud of smoke, bringing fresh water from the rock.

And Jesus in the wilderness is waited on by angels.

Time in the wilderness is important.

Lent - it’s not just about giving up biscuits. It’s about the wilderness, the same wilderness faced by Jesus and John the Baptist and the people of Israel.

It is – or it should be – a time of hardship. A time of spiritual challenge. A time of temptation – yes, the biscuits – but more, a time when temptation leads to faith, leads to relying on God, leads to the ongoing, everlasting miracle that God works by finding us, leading us, protecting and keeping us and, ultimately, saving us.

So my friends, and I say this with love, let me wish you a difficult Lent. Amen.