Out of the Wilderness: Renewed

This video is one of a series of short films for Lent, Holy Week and Easter. Focussing on words from Isaiah 40, we come Out of the Wilderness renewed and enabled to see life from God’s perspective and given strength in times of weakness.

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A full list of the films in this series can be found here.

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Out of the Wilderness: Restored

This video is one of a series of short films called Out of the Wilderness, designed for Lent, Holy Week and Easter. Focussing on Psalm 40, in this film we consider how God restores us and gives us a new song to sing. Recorded before the current difficult times, it’s a Psalm which seems to have taken on a new relevance.

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A full list of the films in this series can be found here.

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Out of the Wilderness: Waiting

This video is one of a series of short films called Out of the Wilderness, designed for Lent, Holy Week and Easter. It considers how waiting for God’s guidance (and some aspects of life generally) can be difficult.

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A full list of the films in this series can be found here. If you are finding them helpful please do let someone else know about them. Thank you.

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Out of the Wilderness: Wandering

This video is one of a series of short films called Out of the Wilderness, designed for Lent, Holy Week and Easter. It considers how when in spiritually dry times, times when we feel we are in the wilderness, we may find ourselves wandering: unsure of where we are heading.

Click here to watch.

A full list of the films in this series can be found here.

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Out of the Wilderness: Wanting

This video, part of a series of short films for Lent, Holy Week and Easter considers what we might be wanting when travelling Out of the Wilderness.

What do we want from God? What does God want, not from, but for us?

Click here to watch.

A full list of the films in the series can be found here.

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Out of the Wilderness

23 degrees in February. Winter sun in Seville. And visiting one of the city’s 115 churches.

The confessional.

The priest inhabits a solitary compartment. To one side, kneels a man confessing his sin through a latticed screen. No door to hide behind though. His act of penitence witnessed by all around. Unseen by the priest, his confession is heard. His sins no longer hidden. He has come out of the wilderness. The wilderness of unforgiven wrongs.

Commencing today, Ash Wednesday, and as mentioned before, Lent is traditionally a time of focussing on what we’ve got wrong. A time of penitence.

That said, such repentance – the word means to ‘turn around’: to turn from wrong to right – is perhaps a daily occurrence for many of us and one not just limited to 40 days or so in the Spring. Many people live with the mistakes and regrets of the past and their impact on the present and the future. Many people live in a wilderness. Whether spiritually, physically or emotionally, such wilderness times can feel dry and barren.

When we live in the wilderness we can feel that we are wanting, wandering and waiting.

We might think about what we want from God and what is it that God wants, not from, but for us.

Sometimes we can feel a lost in the wilderness. We wander around and don’t know where God is. Times when we want to know God’s presence and how we can trust him in the uncertainties of life.

And in many aspects of the wanting and the wandering, there are times of waiting. Waiting for a way forward or a decision, or waiting for a deeper understanding of what God wants for us.

But, and perhaps paradoxically, it is often in such wilderness times that we experience God in much deeper ways. A God who brings us out of the wilderness. Who restores us and renews us, giving us strength and the ability to see life from God’s perspective.

This is the last full blog post until after Easter (yes, I’m giving up writing for Lent…!) but I’d like to offer you a companion for your own journey out of the wilderness.

This travelling companion comprises a series of short films. An introductory one you may like to watch today and then one for each of the weeks of Lent. There are a couple more for Holy Week and Easter as well.* There’s also a free Companion Booklet you can use to make a note of any reflections or insights you have during this period.

When I was a child I used to love doing a rather strange thing. I would stand on my bed in the very corner of my room, getting up as high as I could and look down over all my toys and books. I’m tempted to say you should try it sometime… but maybe do a risk assessment first! It’s a bit like being in an aeroplane looking down on the countryside.

So often we struggle to see this bigger picture when we are so caught up with the wanting, wandering and waiting. God understands the day-to-day practicalities of our lives more than we will ever be able to fathom. Seeking to see our lives from God’s point of view gives us a whole new perspective. Perhaps that is what God wants for you this Lent.

 

 

*There will be a short post on each Sunday in Lent with a link to the film. If you’d like a personal reminder about each film for each week then simply enter your e-mail address in the ‘Subscribe’ box on this page and you’ll receive a notification. It’s free and secure and your details won’t be shared with anyone else.

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What’s in a Name

In the team I used to work with, a sign that people were struggling was an increase in swearing. That’s fine: it acted as a release mechanism – rewarding as the work was, it could also be difficult. I recall one occasion when a lovely colleague of mine walked in to the main office and said very loudly ‘Jesus Christ!’

It spoke of their frustration at a situation: they meant no offence and probably didn’t realise it could have caused any. And while not offended, I was a tad surprised, it has to be said.

Quite rightly, we call ‘foul’ on chants of racial abuse at football matches and it’s important to challenge anti-Semitism and expressions of Islamophobia, for example. But it is strange that Christianity continues to be seen as somewhat of an easy, unprotected target.

From the day to day occurrences, such as the incident mentioned above, to that heard on TV or expressed in other ways (‘Alcohol – put the “good” in to Good Friday’, as one greetings card put it) it is seemingly ‘acceptable’ to do so. Even the ubiquitous ‘Oh, my God!’ is voiced by both unbeliever and believer alike.

So, as we now stand in Holy Week and prepare ourselves for Good Friday, is the continued use of such language in this way somehow symbolic of society’s and individual attitudes?

Symbolic of continuing to metaphorically bang the nails in to the crucified Christ perhaps…

As Christians, we believe that Jesus, God’s son, died on the Cross in order that everyone could enter in to a personal relationship with God. To receive God’s love and to gain eternal life with God in Heaven. Hence, why it’s called Good Friday.

And if that wasn’t enough, on the third day – Easter Day – we learn that that same Jesus has been brought back to life. The Resurrection. Yes, intellectually, that bit is more of a struggle. Nearly 40 years ago, it was that bit which held me back from believing in any of it. How on earth can someone come back to life? Impossible.

It does takes a leap of faith. If one can believe that with God nothing is impossible then, therefore, why couldn’t God’s Son be brought back to life?

I started this post by using Jesus’ name in a particular way and it is this same Jesus who says our name too.

John’s Gospel tells us that early on that first Easter morning, one of Jesus’ female disciples, Mary Magdalene, went to the tomb where Christ’s body lay. It was still dark. The stone had been rolled away from the entrance and the tomb was empty. The body had gone.

No doubt, as she sat weeping, Mary recalled Jesus’ teaching about his death and resurrection. And yet the body had gone. Imagine the confusion. She spent 3 years following this guy and believing what he said and now… nothing. Even the appearance of angels did not bring consolation. Then along comes a gardener and she poured out her distress to him. What on earth was going on?

And then one word changed everything. A word charged with emotion. A word which  encapsulated all she was, covered all her confusion and distress, and brought together all her faith and hope.

‘Mary.’

The 16th Century Italian artist, Savoldo captures the moment beautifully in his painting, Mary Magdalene – it’s the one on the front cover of A Story to Tell. In this one word, the simple utterance of her name, Mary has found not a gardener but the risen Christ. And Christ has found her. In the deep heartfelt calling of her name, Mary had found the true fulfilment of who God had made her to be. She turns to face him. And, John’s Gospel tells us, she says his name in reply.

When someone calls our name, it attracts our attention. We turn to face them. We respond to the voice. We see the person who says it. Hearing our name spoken makes us turn in the right direction. And if we are looking for someone we’ve lost, we might call out their name. And such is the joy when we find them – and such is the joy of the person who has been found.

Through the resurrection, Jesus calls each one of us by name.

Believe it or not, he’s saying your name right now.

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