We can miss what God is doing in the creation all around us and fail to see the signs the Holy Spirit leaves us everywhere. We fail Jesus and his call to us by not picking up on these signs and sharing them with others. Click To Tweet
As spiritual, reflective beings, one of the things we have the capacity to see, if we look properly, is evidence of God at work in the world. The Bible tells us of many people who were amazed by direct evidence of God’s activity. We have the capacity to notice what the world around us is like; we can take in what is unusual or different and try to make sense of it. We are equipped to see and appreciate beauty and to be distressed by ugliness. We notice if the neighbourhood seems to have declined; but we might also go out and enjoy a new building or park or regenerated area. In general we seek out things which give us pleasure and suggest to us that life is good; we lament those things we see around us or on TV which show us the terrible state of our world where things go wrong.
The trouble is, it is easy to become complacent or lazy and not use the gift of sight properly. We can become so used to seeing the things that we take for granted that we don’t notice them until they’re not there any more. We can get used to ugliness, brokenness and suffering, and forget that it is sending us a challenge and a message that the world around us could and should be better than this.
We need to pay attention to what we see all around us and we need to learn how to see differently. We can miss what God is doing in the creation all around us and fail to see the signs the Holy Spirit leaves us everywhere. We fail Jesus and his call to us by not picking up on these signs and sharing them with others.
I lift up my eyes to the hills — from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121: 1-2 (NRSV) Click To Tweet
I lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121: 1-2 (NRSV)
When Jesus went out into the wilderness what did he see? The Judean Desert is a relatively small area bordered by the mountains of Judea to the west and by the Dead Sea to the East. It has a varied geography of mountains, sharp cliffs crossed by canyons and riverbeds, and with areas of plateau. In this rugged landscape it was possible to live in the many caves and hiding places, and rebels and outcasts often hid out in the wilder places. Other people lived in the desert or moved around and through it, often herding animals or bringing items to trade in the towns.
But it was also a place where Jesus could leave town buildings and crowded human activities behind and see the desert people in the context of the shapes of the natural world and the effects of weather. It was a place where he could look at the natural world of his Father’s creation and see how plants and small animals made a living even in harsh conditions. He could appreciate how important water was and the way the land is shaped and changed by the presence of water. In this place there was less to distract him from being himself before God and he would most likely have been forcibly reminded of the long history of the wanderings of the people of Israel. It is no accident that we are told he spent 40 days there, when the people of Israel are said to have wandered for 40 years.
We may imagine that Jesus sought out this region in order to let the environment and its people shape his thoughts as he meditated on God’s will. It was a place where he could more easily focus his attention completely on God without distraction or interruption. What he saw recalled his mind to his purpose – how to serve God completely and to do God’s will as his Son.
- What distractions get in the way of paying attention closely to God?
- What places in your life offer you a ‘desert’ where you are less distracted from focussing on God?
This reflection is based on ‘Journey into Seeing’ from our Lent 2009 resources produced by the Mission Theology Advisory Group (MTAG).