Spaceballs, Joan rivers,, etc. Captail Lone Star (Bill Pullman) – Water, Dot Matrix (Joan Rivers) Oil, princess Vespa – room service.
The Desert. Moses, The Israelites, Isaiah, Jesus, All driven by the wolf. Some by the teeth of the wolf, (Moses by his crime, Israel by the Egyptians, Isaiah by Jezebel), some by the call of the wolf, (Jesus by his baptismal experience).
And Jesus must have felt alone. We always feel alone in the desert. However, we’re not.
When I was 20 and the JW’s threw me out I was chased into the dessert. I didn’t know the world, I didn’t understand the world, I’d grown up in what I thought was an oasis community and all around me was dessert. I felt utterly alone.
Of course I look back and I realise that I wasn’t alone. Like an eagle flying way above me God kept an eye on me and helped me through. The Samaritans and their support. The shelter given by the cyrenians. The job that grounded me and gave me a community. But at the time I felt alone. It’s only looking back do I see the hand of God. And I imagine it was the same for Jesus.
In Deuteronomy 32: 10-13 we read:
God sustained him in a desert land,
in a howling wilderness waste;
God shielded him, cared for him,
guarded him as the apple of his eye.
As an eagle stirs up its nest,
and hovers over its young;
as it spreads its wings, takes them up,
and bears them aloft on its pinions,
the Lord alone guided him;
no foreign god was with him.
He set him atop the heights of the land,
and fed him.
We all have times when we enter a desert. And a desert is simply a place in our life where the emptyness of the world drives us within, and the sun burns off our dross. As Malachi said, God tempers us in a refiners fire, God uses the heat of the desert to cleanse us the way impurities are burned from silver.
Sometimes we are driven there, like Moses, israel, Elijah, sometimes we are led there.
Quite often the journey starts when we begin to understand that the path we are on is taking us round in circles. We believed that:
If we work hard then we get the rewards.
If we believe in Jesus then everything will be OK.
God’s love protects us from bad things.
What we believe is the ultimate truth.
Success is about what we own, what we have.
there is a chasm, a hole, getting bigger
there is an ache, a yearning, for something we can’t see or understand.
there is a feeling that there’s something missing, and that it’s just out of reach.
We search for the rewards and there are none.
We believe in Jesus and still life is unfair.
We know that God love’s us but bad things happen.
Our dogma, our beliefs, don’t stand up to close scrutiny, they simply do not meet life’s needs.
And we search and search but eventually realise that nothing in life, no posession, can give us what we crave.
This is the journey in the desert. We know we’re there because:
We search harder for the rewards and there are none.
We pray harder to Jesus and life gets more unfair.
Our trust that God loves us wavers as we see more bad things happen.
We search for new dogma, new beliefs, and things left empty. It’s all hollow and meaningless.
“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”
I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself.” And behold, it too was futility.
“I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty.
The emptying is painful. We are like a child losing their toys, or a dog having a bone taken from them. Our life, everything we trusted, whether or not it served us well, whether or not it was good for us, whether or not we even liked it, slips from us and it’s painful losing it.
Better to be a citizen in a bad country than no country. Better to have a home with problems than no home at all. Foxes have dens, Birds have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head. How did he live like that?
In the desert there’s nothing around us that can help us. The landscape is empty, nothing but sand. The desert demands that we look within. And we don’t want to. We were taught that the answers were out there, in our work, our church, our family, our friends, our beliefs, our values, but in the desert there’s nothing out there but sand.
Why? Why would the wolf drive us into the desert? Why would the wolf lead us into the desert? Why would we be left so alone? It certainly feels like we’re alone. There’s an eagle flying high, soaring the sky, but it’s probably looking for prey. It’s nothing to do with us.
There is an emptyness here that hurts. Not only are there no answers in the sands of the desert, but even the questions have been lost to time. Which way do we go? Is there a way out? Which direction? One direction seems very much like an other. There may be a shining city on the other side of that dune, or a hundred miles of sand. How do we feed when there’s nothing to eat? How do we quench our thirst when there is no water? Why would God abandon us to this emptyness?
In Ephesians 3:17-19 the apostle Paul wrote: so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
But the ‘when’ that happens, and ‘how’ that happens, that’s Peta’s story next week. Until then the eagle soars above, watching, protecting, and waiting for the next part of your journey to begin.