Thought for the Month - Holy Trinity, Prestwood

DH-1 A thought for the month by our Rector, Deiniol.

Lent is a time of waiting. It is, I think, designed to be a little uncomfortable. It certainly was deliberately so for Jesus. He went in to the desert. He didn’t have much in the way of creature comforts. The temptations he faced were tailor-made to get under his skin, to speak to his own worries and fears, his hopes and dreams. They challenged his own self-understanding.
I’m not really a fan of over-psychologising people’s responses to things. I’ve never really liked the idea of saying things like, “Oh well, he would say that, it’s because he’s a…,”or “People like her always react like that!” That’s not to say I’m never guilty of that sort of language, but I think it diminishes our human responses as individuals to individual circumstances. However, I do think there is something to be said for understanding Jesus’s temptations as an internal response to the questions that must have plagued him.
It’s all to easy to take “the devil” a bit too literally here, and thus remove the sting from the tail, if you like, of Jesus’ temptations. Whatever “the devil” meant in the ancient world, it doesn’t mean anything like that in our own day. Our own psychologically astute world knows that what most tortures us is not a funny little red man in tights with a trident. What most tortures us is ourselves.
And surely that’s the way to understand Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness? It seems to me this is Jesus testing, exploring, probing himself. His sense of who he is, his understanding of his role, his relationship to God and to the world. Everything is up for grabs. What Jesus has to do with rigorous honesty is test himself against his desires, his secret hopes, his fears. It is something we all have to do, though I’d wager very few of us have to do it with the rigour and honesty that characterised Jesus’s response.
Jesus was preparing, we know, for his death as a sacrifice. He isn’t the only one to have done that. I wonder if you were as moved by me by tales of the soldiers in the Great War that we heard at the end of 2018? Soldiers who knew that they had very little to look forward to but death, and who had faced that truth. And many people caught in war, conflict, fear, torture, illness, disease and accident have had to face that awful truth, that awful possibility.
It seems to me that as a society we like to look away from the things that scare us, and when we do face them we like to think we can control them. But of course, we can’t. There’s nothing wrong with a positive outlook in the face of a debilitating, life-limiting illness or disease. It might be a great help to us. In my own illnesses it has helped me to have a positive outlook. But it doesn’t, in an of itself, change anything. Far better, I believe, to have the Lenten experience under our belts: a time of waiting, a time of challenge, a time of facing the things that derail us from ourselves. The wilderness is an uncomfortable pace to be. But life can be uncomfortable. It can be difficult. Placing ourselves in the wilderness, as Jesus did, is part and parcel of doing the Christ-like job of becoming truly ourselves, made in the image of God. That’s particularly true when the going gets tough.
So I invite you to a holy, uncomfortable, waiting Lent. Know that where you go, Jesus went before.

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Holy Trinity, Prestwood is an Inclusive Church. We are part of the Church of England.
We are in the Oxford diocese and the Wendover Deanery.

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