Sunday, February 11, 2018

Angels in the wilderness

This edition of the River of Life we are focussing on the journey towards Easter that we call Lent. Our scripture at the beginning of that Lenten journey is the Gospel story Jesus in the wilderness (often called the Temptation). This story has always been one of my favourites in scripture. It is full of danger and temptation, but underneath it all it is a story about the quest for meaning. Jesus is being faced with the core question that faces us all… ‘How will we spend our life?’ The temptation story is full of power and passion, danger and potential violence. The story in Mark only rates one verse but we are familiar with the expanded versions in the other gospels which make it clear that in the wilderness he faced the darkness of the world embodied in the Devil or ‘the Tempter’. And so in Lent we have often also focussed on our own temptations and out own darkness. Yet in all these years of reading about Jesus in the wilderness I missed the angels!
Jesus spends a self-imposed, agonising time of self-examinatio
n in the wilderness but he is accompanied not only by his lonely questions but he is also attended by angels. In fact in our version from Mark the angels are just as present as Satan. Unlike the other gospel writers Mark rarely refers to angels at all yet they are important in this story. Lent can be a time to take stock of our lives, to come clean about the things that tempt us and the things that scare us. It can be a very helpful time of self-examination but in the midst of this deep time the angels are a reminder that we are not alone. God promises to be with us in the wild, lonely places of our lives and God promises to bring us blessing out of these deep times.
I must say also that many people regard parts of our beautiful presbytery as being wilderness. For me Loddon Mallee contains a lot of wild open spaces, big wonderful skies and vast horizons and, if we choose to accept it, spaces to reflect and be. And that our Presbytery is ministered to by angels I have no doubt. I meet them all the time, but I need eyes and a heart to know them. I invite you to make this Lent a time to recount the angels you have known and the ones who currently attend you, the ones who attend you in your wilderness times. I read an article recently that referred to the angels, in the words of William Sloan Coffin, as the one who remind us that there "is more grace in God than sin in us."
So this Lent I invite you use the time as a time for an inner journey of reflection and the search for meaning, but be reminded that in doing so that you too, like Jesus, are being ministered to by angels, both human and Divine.
Rev Gordon Bannon
painting by Cheryle Bannon at

1 comment:

rosie said...

Thank you for this reflection. As a part of a dwindling congregation in Donald, it is vital we see God at work through his people in the ordinary. Lent is indeed a time to look at and take note of those angels who are with us in our own wilderness.