Thoughts to get you Thinking

Dear Belvoir family,

Our media love to not just record the story but direct the story, don’t they?  As soon as they are weary of one aspect of something, they pursue the next thing, setting the agenda for the nation and its decision-makers, usually by a phone-in and then quoting those calls as if they are the Thoughts to get you thinking - Belvoir Parishnews.  Well, there is one aspect of the agenda that they can’t set nor control.  The inside of my head!  I can mess that up all on my own.

Coming out of lockdown is their latest big story.  How soon can I get a cappuccino and a haircut?
Coming out of lockdown seems to be mostly about how we can keep space between us and do everything just like we did before.   The issue is driven by getting back to normal, whatever we believe that was.  I have written recently about the need to consider going forwards rather than back and how positively different that could be.  

So, the assumption is that Government will give us space guidelines and we will try to set up school, business, church services, waiting areas in A&E, beds in corridors, roads jammed with cars, queues in airports, pumping poisonous gas everywhere, just the way it was before.  Then we will all be happy again (did you detect that hint of disbelief?)

I can’t change anybody or anything very much, but I can at least consider how I might want to be different (the inside of my head), and how we (our church and the inside of our corporate head) might want to be different together.  I know this next thought isn’t in the Bible, but the idea isn’t far from it.  In the last few weeks we have been watching the complete Star Wars trilogy of trilogies.  Yoda is just brilliant.  Like him I would love to talk.  “Young Skywalker, of your thoughts be mindful.”  Is it possible to actually take control of my own attitudes and thoughts?  (There is at least one Bible verse for that.)

Consider a bit of the Bible, Luke 4.  Lockdown for Jesus.  “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.”  The word for “led by” has a number of meanings that are all very similar.  The primary meaning is its use with regard to animals – the leading of an animal to pasture or to work, something like that.  Some translations use words like “driven by the Holy Spirit” or “compelled by the Holy Spirit”.  There is no suggestion that Jesus was resistant, but clearly this was not going to be a holiday experience.  This was immediately after his very public baptism and the announcement by John the Baptist that he was the one.  Jesus could be excused for imagining that some sort of celebration or opening ceremony could have been organised, rather than being “driven into the wilderness”.  None of us would have chosen this present wilderness either.

The experience of wilderness for Jesus is captured in a very few short verses.  He was isolated.  He did not need to measure two metres from anyone.  There may have been several miles between him and the next person.  So alone was he that Matthew’s version (4:11) tells us that angels came and attended him.  How could we ever know (and don’t start making it up for your next post) how many people may have had the comfort of angels in their isolation?  Then Luke tells us that for forty days – six weeks – he ate nothing and that he was hungry.  Have you ever fasted?  Goodness, we send apologies about not attending an event/meeting because we haven’t had our dinner.  We’re a hardy lot, aren’t we?  The most explicit description of these isolated days was the attack by Satan on him personally.  Don’t imagine these “temptations” were momentary thoughts during a quiet afternoon sitting at the pool-side.  These were day after day, night after night, while hiding from wild animals, starving, weary, cold, sweltered, alone, wondering…wondering…wondering…

  1. Starving…I could make bread from rocks, I am God after all…what if I tried and couldn’t…maybe I am not god after all…who am I…can I be sure…what is this all about…
  2. Purpose…take over the world…how… and who…me, a carpenter’s son from Galilee…the kingdoms of the world…Roman Empire, seriously…does it matter how I achieve it, so long as we get the job done…who would ever know if the dark side and I play along together out here in the wilderness?
  3. The means…everyone else rules by might and status and power…why can’t I…I have the power…I could make it work…a bit of drama like Moses…a miracle or two, give them time to get their phones out…a procession through the streets on a white horse…a few well-orchestrated rallies…publicity, popularity, media attention, a good management team… Alone? Hated? Rejected? A donkey? Despised? Tortured? Crucified? Unknown? I can choose, can’t I?

Look at the result.  Luke 4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit (before wilderness) becomes Luke 4:14 Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

How much I yearn to not just be filled with the Holy Spirit but to live and move in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Now, just in case you imagine I mean a miracle-working-celebrity-preacher, I actually mean the same changes as those that Jesus went through in his wilderness – discovering more fully who I am (my identity as child of God), discovering my purpose in being here (it seriously can’t be about cappuccinos and haircuts), and having genuine Godly attitudes to how I achieve that purpose (humility, servant-heart, sacrifice, no interest in popularity, free from pressure to be successful…the Jesus stuff).  He was one in a million, wasn’t he?

In fact, his hope was to be the first one in many millions…so

We have a few weeks more of lockdown or at least a few weeks of graduated unlocking.  Could we spend some time in this wilderness considering (before and perhaps instead of getting all caught up with spacing ourselves in restaurants, cinemas and churches) –

  • What sort of a person do I want to be?  UP
  • What sort of faith community do we want to be?  IN
  • How do we want to serve and influence the surrounding community (locally) and the environment (globally)?  OUT
  • How do we address the still-unsolved issues of our society and world?   OF

Lots of love,