Good Friday

DESERT JOURNEYS 33

30th March 2018

 

jesus-christ-cross_SI_3

Sylvia Sands’ poem recalls Mark 15:33: ‘When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.’  Poetry helps me on this day of all days, when like Mary ‘groping wretchedly’ I sometimes struggle to find the words to pray.

‘The Nocturne of the Night’ by Sylvia Sands

Twelve o’clock in the afternoon,
and one of the stars in the universe
began screaming,
while down the hill of Golgotha
pounded a young lad,
scattering five loaves and two fishes
as he ran,
crying,
Turn out the sun,
turn out the sun!
Words – it so happened –
that found a place in a mother’s heart,
who, in her anguish,
had been groping wretchedly and in vain
for a prayer – any prayer – to cry.
Yes, turn out the sun, she echoed.

In answer to the screaming star,
in answer to the boy’s cry,
in answer to the distracted mother
I the Night,
already fearful and brooding,
descended.

Tenderly I came,
wrapping my cloak of darkness
round his twisted limbs,
as his mother once wrapped him
in swaddling clothes.

Slowly I came,
sending arms of darkness
round the shaking shoulders
of his disciples,
hiding in the fields.

Gently I came,
dropping a jet blanket
over the trembling form
of a beautiful woman in scarlet
prostrate in the dust of Calvary.

Relentlessly I came,
stopping the heartless rattle of dice,
dulling the brazen glint of swords,
and spears,
and armour.

At twelve o’clock,
earlier than ever before or since,
I, the Night, came to Calvary,
ushering in black shadows
in which humanity could hide its face like a child,
ushering in at twelve o’clock in the afternoon,
ushering in the dark night of the soul.

 

Thank you very much to everyone who has taken part in this Lent blog. It has been a memorable journey through the desert as we have shared, learned from, and been inspired by your thoughts, poems and experiences.

Sophia Acland

 

 

 

 

 

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Making the desert bloom

DESERT JOURNEYS 32

Thursday 29th March 2018

 

simple prayer

How often are we guilty of taking the familiar for granted and to an extent of missing that surprise element of beauty or reality which we know all too well?

Having lived for many years in the Middle East I probably became overfamiliar with the desert landscape at times and took it for granted. Yet returning to the Middle East this morning and flying in over the desert with the dawn rising reminded me afresh of its spectacular, stark beauty as well as being reminded of the need to consider its harsh realities and dangers.

The desert is breath-taking but it is a place of extremes which require care and consideration to be exercised to ensure survival. There is a fine balance in the eco-structure which allows an array of living creatures and plants to survive, including those biblical tribes who survived in the wilderness with God’s help. Yet survival needs to be considered and actively contributed to as we lead our lives and endeavour hopefully to make a positive difference wherever we live.

This well-known prayer attributed to St Francis of Assisi speaks to me of so many ways that we can make a difference and help to transform with care and consideration the harsh realities or extremes of our local deserts and support the wonderful gift of life. In this way we can each help to make the desert bloom and support that element of beauty.

Pippa Leggate

Sacred space

DESERT JOURNEYS 31

Wednesday 28th March 2018

 

walker

As we continue to travel through Lent, I have been challenged to embrace the need to give myself more quiet space to ask questions about ‘how am I doing?’, ‘is there enough time spent with my Heavenly Father?’; ‘do I stop speaking, enough for Him to impart wisdom and hope, to reflect on the God who formed us and to find a rest that He alone can give?’

Where is that place that I can find that silence and solitude, that is not too terrifying but can be used for God to grow me and find this rest?

Those who have studied the desert place, the place of silence and solitude have found that if we persevere, we will gain a deep contentment simply with God alone. I am amazed at the number of people who just drop into St George’s for that ‘quiet moment’. Both St George and St Cyr are open every day, so do use that sacred space. I have a long way to go to fully embrace the ‘desert place’, a time of silence and solitude instead choosing to chat and to ‘do’ but hope that you will hold me accountable to finding more of it. I wonder where you can best find that place where you gain deep contentment with the God who loves you so much, and rest in Him?

I hope that you will join us at our Easter services as we travel from darkness to light, from pain to joy, from death to life and discover a God who formed us, knows us and who alone can bring a rest that nothing else can bring. There is so much for us to reflect on: let us find a place to be quiet and find both ourselves and the God who formed us.

Fiona Crocker

Comfort

DESERT JOURNEYS 30

Tuesday 27th March 2018

As we journey through the growing tension of Holy Week and towards the desolation of Good Friday, a poem of comfort sent in by Judith Ashman:

800px-Gethsemane_Carl_Bloch

Jesus in Gethsemane by Carl Bloch (1834-1890)

‘Take Courage’

I can’t change
What you’re going through,
I have no words to make a difference,
No answers or solutions
To make things easier for you.

But, if it helps in any way,
I want to say I care.
Please know
That even when you are lonely
You are not alone.
I’ll be here
Supporting you with my thoughts
Cheering for you with all my strength
Praying for you with all my heart
For whatever you need
For as long as it takes
Lean on my love.

Hagar

DESERT JOURNEYS 29

Monday 26th March 2018

 

51022-Hagar

Barren – such a harsh word. What woman would use it to describe her childless condition? Abram had received tremendous promises of future descendants, and yet, as the years passed, he and his wife Sarai were still childless.

Sarai herself attributed her childlessness to Yahweh; she was acutely aware of her husband’s impatient yearning, and as a last resort, offered Abram her Egyptian slave girl Hagar to be, not a concubine, but a wife to him.

Hagar conceived without difficulty, She was immensely proud and her status rose – she was potentially the mother of Abram’s heir. Did she brag and boast? We’re told she slighted her mistress; maybe she called her barren, and Sarai found her wifely status was threatened and the situation intolerable. She abused Hagar so harshly that the defenceless slave-wife ran away. She fled westward to the desert of Shur, presumably on her way back home to Egypt. There in the desert Hagar found a spring, and at the spring a “messenger” of the LORD visited her. Neither Sarai nor Abram are recorded as having spoken to Hagar – in their eyes she was a mere instrument, a tool to accomplish their purpose. Yet the LORD’s messenger did speak and called her by her name. “Hagar, maid of Sarai, from where have you come and where are you going?”

Hagar answers, admitting her status as subject to Sarai and her flight from her mistress. The messenger’s word seems cruel; Hagar is to return to her mistress and be subject to continued harsh treatment. But there is a promise also. Hagar is to have innumerable descendants and there are specific assurances about her pregnancy; she will bear a male child, call his name Ishmael “God hears,” and although Ishmael will have a life of strife, he will hold his own. Hagar, who is not recorded as being at all involved with God before this moment, there perceives the reality of her life story and boldly names God “El Roi” meaning “God sees.” She is the only person in scripture to give a name to God, to God who has called her by her name.

What do we learn of the different deserts in this record? How unwise it is to try to arrange things for God when nothing seems to be happening. Sarai tried to enhance her standing by using Hagar to bear a child for her, but it didn’t work out as she expected and had planned. Abram who foolishly let himself be tied in knots by two women who were at odds with each other weakly refused to take any responsibility for their different claims upon him. Both Abram and Sarai wavered in their trust in God.

And Hagar? The victim of the story, she tried to escape her appalling situation, even by risking a dangerous desert journey. But there she met God, found her role as a suffering servant, but also as a person pregnant with promise and possibilities. She sees beyond her suffering to a real encounter with God, and to the conviction that He knows her and has seen everything. She gains the maturity to accept that it is not God’s will to change her circumstances, but that He will be present to her in all the hardship she must continue to bear.

St Paul contrasts Sarai and Hagar, identifying Sarai (Sarah) as Abraham’s wife, the mother of the Free. Hagar he dismisses as the woman who symbolises bondage, as indeed she does. But which one of these two women reminds us more directly of Jesus?

The scriptural basis for this reflection can be found in Genesis 16

Mary Wood

Struggle

DESERT JOURNEYS 28

Friday 23rd March 2018

 

rocks in desert

‘Ash Wednesday’ by T.S. Eliot

The poem ‘Ash Wednesday’ has been described as ‘the greatest achievement of Eliot’s poetry’, and was the first long poem written by him after his conversion to Anglicanism in 1927.

The title, of course, refers to the first of the forty days of Lent, and the poem deals with the struggle that ensues when one who has lacked faith in the past strives to move towards God.

The season of Lent calls us to self-examination, and to a desire for God. ‘Ash Wednesday’, although too long to reproduce on this blog, closes with Eliot’s prayer, which alludes to reflection amongst the rocks of the desert:

Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee.

Richard Elliott

‘A desert journey’ by Jun Munez

glass-of-water-in-desert

DESERT JOURNEYS 27

Thursday 22nd March 2018

 

‘A desert journey’ by Jun Munez

The merciless sun shone with beams unbearable,
Scorching vulnerable creatures underneath;
A man trekked down with baggage full,
Unmindful of the sun’s heat

Walk he must,
Stall he must not!

His feet sored with blisters so painful,
Shifting his gait from normal to unsteady;
His body damped with sweats immeasurable,
Draining him, all energy and vitality

Walk he must,
Stall he must not!

His eyes cried with tears unfathomable,
Blurring his sight on his trajectory;
His soul ached with sorrows soulful,
Crippling him, emotionally and physically.

Walk he must,
Stall he must not!

At last he found beyond the hazy horizon
An oasis; where he can rest upon,
His sored feet, his damped body
His crying eyes, his aching soul.

There in that place so blissful,
He took refuge; calling it a day.
Taking comfort body, soul and all,
Getting ready for yet another desert journey.

Life at its harshest times,
is a grueling desert journey.
Straining you; all strength and might,
Casting all your hopes out of sight.

But walk you must, and stall you must not,
For at the end of your ordeal,
Beyond that great somewhere,
A consoling oasis is waiting for you there.

 

I find this poem very moving.
Jesus is my Oasis.

Paula Gregory