Learning God – A study for Lent 2022
Matthew Chapter 4 vs 1-11, Chapters 5,6,7
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested by the Devil” Matthew 4:1 (ESV)
“He calls his sons and daughters to the wilderness” Michael Card
[Find a notebook and pen, or pencil (I prefer a pencil).
Together with the Scriptures keep them close this Lent]
Recently one of our grandchildren celebrated her second birthday. Via the miracle of modern technology Sarah and I watch as she discovers the present her parents have given her.
Miriam was told to go to the kitchen and as the camera followed we saw her discovering a model kitchen within the kitchen. Having unpacked the box with the pots and pans and plates and cups she just set about ‘doing kitchen stuff’. It reminded us of when her mother and sister had also been given a play kitchen. They just set to ‘doing kitchen stuff’.
Children learn by imitation, but it is unselfconscious. It is such a remarkable thing. Jesus calls us to become like children in our faith – without self-consciousness; Learning God.
In this Jesus is our model “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
Pause in Silence
Sit in the quiet with these words of Jesus. He can only do what he sees the Father doing . . . like the child can only do what they see the parent doing.
Perhaps take a pen and notebook – what does this summon up within you? Is there a prayer which rises up?
This is the entirety of our Christian vocation. This is our Christian Life, Life in all its fulness. To do only what we see the Father doing.
To live this life requires we see God clearly, and that is the purpose of the wilderness . . to learn God.
Pause in Silence
What comes to mind when you imagine Wilderness? Take time to imagine . . .
God’s ancient people the Hebrews were led out into the wilderness. This is the place which to our eyes is empty. Just the Wind of God, Breath, Spirit. There is nothing to distract . . . from God, and indeed ourselves.
There’s nothing we can do in The Wilderness to make a life for ourselves.
In my native Cumbrian dialect, the opening of Genesis reads,
‘In the beginning, there were nobbut God’ In the wilderness there is a blank slate and ‘nobbut God’.
God fills our vision as a parent fills the world of the child who lives in the flow of unconscious vibrant imitation.
Pause in Silence
What do we make of the idea of learning God?
How does it resonate, or not with our ideas of ‘Being a Christian’?
“To all who received him, who trusted him; to all those he gave the right to become children of God, to become those born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but born of God.” John 1:12-13
Some writers suggest we can translate the opening of Genesis, ‘In the beginning, when God began to create the heavens and the earth’ This translation suggests a ‘coming into being’ of the surrounding world. But what of us? Of our Becoming into being?
Our study this Lent comprises the key elements of Jesus Wilderness life.
As the Hebrews spent 40 years in the wilderness, so Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness. There after 40 days of fasting – which sharpens our vision of what really matters – to be tempted, or more helpfully tested, judged, tried. (in the way one might try a metal to see if it was fit for purpose, in the fire.
‘Tempted’ carries a lot of unhelpful baggage . . . what is being tried here is Jesus’ discernment, his vision. Can he see right?
Seeing right the essence of the Life of God, as opposed to the death of Sin.
Then Jesus goes up on the mountain and there brings to fulfilment the encounter of God’s people with God on Sinai, when he gives ‘the Law’. Now from the Mouth of God comes Livingness in Jesus’ words.
For the rest of our time this week, read slowly through the ‘temptation’ story from Matthew and then the Sermon on the Mount . . .
Make a few notes as you go along. What strikes you? What attracts? What scares? What puzzles or confounds?
We have plenty of time. All the time we need to take is found in God’s hands . . . Let us know ourselves there in our imagination. And, what’s more, there’s nothing else we really have to be doing, is there?
Next week – Learning God – What do you see?