In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ St Mark 1.9-15
Area Dean Canon Philip Anderson writes…
A couple of years ago I spent a month in isolation. I was on retreat, in a hermitage belonging to some monks. At lunchtime I would leave the very simple chalet, on hearing a bell, walk up to the monastery kitchen door, and receive food the day ahead in a basket. It might sound idyllic, but being alone, even for someone who likes their own company, can be a challenge. The purpose of a retreat like mine is about drawing close to God, who is always closer to us than we can comprehend.
Jesus’ time of isolation came after the intensity of his baptism, by his cousin, John. The forty days that shape our season of Lent. St Mark’s gospel tells us that Jesus was driven into the wilderness, by the Spirit of God. Why? So that when he returned to Galilee, his home, he was prepared in body, mind, spirit, to give his all to the work of proclaiming that the kingdom of God has come near. He would be under no illusions. He had wrestled with Death. He understood temptation so as to be able to call us all to repent. Let’s use these days as a time to turn away from sin, and towards Love.
Our season of social distancing has been imposed by the need to work together in fighting the threat of coronavirus. But it’s so important that our hearts grow warmer not cold at this time. Let’s be practising and training in mutual love. Our normal patterns of worship, work, and social life are being disrupted. But even now God is with us. As we seek to follow Jesus, and to live in him, the Spirit of God will be with us, sustaining us, praying within us, as St Paul wrote in Romans 8, even when words fail us. We have been baptised into his death, and into his resurrection. God looks at us as he looked at Jesus, as beloved children.
We can be ambassadors of Jesus Christ in the coming days by joining together in the one Spirit, if not in the one place. Please use the words given here to pray for Wigan, our nation, and the whole world. Read the Bible. Pray with the communion of the saints. Love one another, through careful attention to the sick and the lonely. Reach out using the phone, offer of help with shopping. Seek to be Christ’s reassuring presence in your street. Use this rhythm of prayer to give shape and focus to each new day. May we be experienced as encouragers, like the angels that waited on Jesus. Let’s pray, like him, ‘Thy Kingdom Come’.
Canon Philip Anderson, Area Dean of Wigan
We will be adding prayer resources to this page before Sunday 22nd March 2020