Desert Journeys 1
14th February 2018
Today is Ash Wednesday, when we are invited to travel with Jesus out of our comfort zone and into the wilderness and to follow him as he experiences temptation and hardship. In his desert journey, he was completing a biblical tradition. Moses and Elijah met God in the desert, and John the Baptist first appeared there as a voice crying out in the wilderness proclaiming the coming of the kingdom.
I can’t help thinking of the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa today, and the many refugee and migrant journeys that have been made across them over the last year. As it was for the Israelites fleeing from their Egyptian oppressors, for those escaping war in Syria or poverty in Africa the desert has been a place of hope but also great suffering and danger, especially for children.
The ashes many people will receive on their foreheads today are a sign of our mortality and remind us of the fragility of human life. They remind us too that we share a common humanity. As I remember Jesus’s journey into the desert today I am uncomfortably aware of the refugee camps which form so many modern-day desert journeys’ ends. Like many people, I suspect, I often feel that the issues presented by refugees and migrants are just too big and too complex for me to be able to help. But actually we can all make a difference in some way. A Lenten resolution for me is to think again how we might be the voice that ‘cries in the wilderness’: in what ways in this particular situation we could bring God’s kingdom a little nearer to those who have travelled far from home in search of a safer or a better life.