The first Sunday in Lent always centres around those strange and disturbing texts in the gospels which tell the story of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. It has often struck me that there is a “fourth temptation” which precedes the other three and without which there is no story at all, indeed there is no story about Jesus at all. That “fourth temptation” is the temptation to avoid the wilderness altogether, to duck the challenge of those forty days and thus the weird confrontation which arises at the end of them. For the wilderness, however construed, is a place of testing, an uncomfortable place which exposes those who enter it and generates challenging questions that are more safely left unasked, questions about the self and God, about who we really are. It is very tempting not to go there. Jesus’ journey through the desert emerges, however, with a deeper self-knowledge, a stronger rootedness in God, which overcomes the worst that is thrown at him. With that experience behind him, he now knows he has the inner strength to face his calling and his future. So the challenge of the wilderness is something we too do well to embrace if we are to face life with courage and confidence.
I’m not sure I want to characterise our new initiative, The Vine, as a wilderness experience: to the contrary, I hope it will be energising and life giving. But it does contain at its heart the challenge to step into the unknown, to face ourselves, without which we don’t grow and so to follow Jesus more fully. So I’m really delighted that so many came along to the launch and are now indicating that they want to be part of it. If you were wondering about joining, but missed the launch, you still can: just contact us and ask. The way it works allows us simply to keep adding more groups on, thus developing more and deeper discipleship.
I hope you have March 9th in your diary for our next Assembly. As indicated earlier, we will take the opportunity to explain something of Mission Partnership itself, so we’ve called it
Piecing it Together: the Mission Partnership Mosaic
- What’s the big picture?
- Where are we going?
- How do I connect?
- Where do I make a difference?
I hope to see you there.