St James Ministry Team

A blog from the Ministry Team of St James Church, Colwall, Herefordshire, UK


Into the desert

About this time of year, I always begin to long for the desert - and not just because it would be warmer (after all, I like our lively weather!). No, the desert is the place where the really stunning encounters with the living God took place. I've been doing some meditations at school on the experiences of Moses and Elijah (more of these on the website soon I hope) and again and again I am struck by the place in which they occurred. The desert - where there is no visible life but God, no help, no comfort, no company. To be truly alone in front of God - go out on the mountain and stand in his presence, look away as he passes by, take off your shoes - that is a challenge few can rise to. My love of the idea of desert is romantic rather than practical - I probably wouldn't last two minutes out there! But I am challenged by the concept. Where is our desert? Where do we go to come face to face with nothing but God? Where have we such a sense of holiness that can transform the weaknesses and the reluctance of those who are summoned into this presence. I am tired of talk, theories, theology that tries to pin down God like some supernatural butterfly. No wonder the desert fathers deserted their cities for the desert (hmm - quite a sentence, that!). It's enough to drive me up the pole - why can't we stop telling people what to do and to think, and make space for them to enter into places where they can encounter God directly. O yes - I know - woolly new age thinking, you say - of course the OT prophets didn't know any better and Christian theology has progressed to a far more enlightened level of appreciation. Once age = wisdom. I'm tired of modern arrogance that can explain (away) everything. I do believe that God can speak and act directly but no wonder he has to do it in the desert. Where are our deserts? If you came across the burning bush, would you reach for the fire exstinguisher on health and safety grounds, or ask the charioteer of fire for his driving licence and please keep to the speed limit? Absurd? Or is it us who are absurd and what we have lost contact with, explained or thrown away more prescious because it is so rarely found. To be truely alone with God - to stand in his presence - that is the challenge. PS If you like good desert photos try typing "Burning Bush" into Google image search.


At 18 March 2006 at 14:14, Blogger ken said...

One immediate reaction:
The idea of going into the desert to be still and know God is for many people an unobtainable luxury.
The resurrection may have been in a garden, but the crucifixion was amongst a crowd of passers by. The incarnate God is to be found in the hurly-burly of life as much as in the solitude and peace of the desert.
Glory to God in the High(e)St.

At 19 March 2006 at 22:12, Blogger Anne Hogg said...

Yes I agree - the Pentecost experience is a supreme example. But isn't there safety in numbers? I think we get a little cosy about our God clubs. Jesus ministered in crowds but he sought God in solitude. And it's not so much a sense of alone-ness (although that is important in our obsessively social age) but the awareness of the presence, the awe and the holiness. Yes you can do that in services - but do we ... ?


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