Lent 2017: I will lure you into a desert place

1 March 2017 | Reflections From Abbess Mary

I will lure you into a desert place,
there I'll speak unto your heart.
There you'll learn the treasures of abandonment,
There you'll know I am your God.

This is the chorus of the hymn we just listened to which was sung many years ago by Trish Watts. The words draw their inspiration from the text we know so well in Hosea 2:14. 

Today, as we sit here, marked with the sign of ashes on our foreheads - like Jesus, we are being 
"lured" into a desert place....
lured by the Spirit so we can hear God speaking to our hearts, lured there so we will learn the treasures of abandonment, lured so that in stillness and quiet, we will know, deeply know within, those words, "I am your God".

As always Ash Wednesday provides a threshold... a starting point... an invitation. This year, I want to suggest that we reflect on this invitation to be "lured" into a desert place. I looked up the word "lure" in the dictionary and found 
"to entice", 
"to attract" , 
"to tempt" and then, I had to laugh at the final meaning which was 
"a brightly coloured artificial angling bait"! 

Seeing as Jesus liked to use the image of fishing so often in his ministry, and probably lured many a fish, I thought this might be a good metaphor for us to take as we reflect on the invitation to be "lured" into a desert place this Lent!

Desert

The desert, as we know, can be a harsh and difficult place but it can also be a place of great beauty, colour and blessing. I want to suggest that we think of it today as a "brightly coloured" lure, inviting us into a place where we can leave behind so many of the burdens of daily life and enter into a place of newness, stillness, silence, wonder and beauty. 

Holy God of wonder, 
how this night is new.
Solitude and stillness 
draw me home to you.

This is the first verse of Trish Watt's hymn. It suggests the new gifts from our God of wonder who lures us into the desert. We enter into a new place; we leave behind the haste and pressures of life and enter into a deeper solitude and stillness, a place where we can be drawn to our home in God.

I want to ask you today, 
What is your hurry? What is mine? 
What are the things that stress us and cause us to hurry in body and mind? 
Is it the lists that I write each day or maybe I try to take on too many things each day which are impossible to do? 
Do I think I have to "look" busy? 
Is it my lack of organization or perhaps that I spend too much time doing other things? 
Is it just my lack of awareness to truly "be" in the present moment that causes me to hurry and send off vibes of irritation or flurry? 
What is my hurry? 
Can I, can we be lured away from that constant hurry in the days ahead? 
What do I need to do to allow myself to be lured into a deeper stillness, 
a deeper solitude, a deeper breath of life and of God? 

And, what is my noise about?   What constitutes noise in my life?
It's not always an audible noise although we are far too often, a very audible community which is always trying to become more inaudible!  
But, apart from talking too much and too loudly, we know that noise is not always audible...it can be the inner voice which never seems to be silent, like the continual put-downs in our heads, or words of rage or perhaps sorrow...    
it can be the words spoken by others going round and round in our heads;
or the noise might also be coming at me silently as I read words on the screen or in books...
it can be the noise of hours spent surfing the internet going from site to site filling our minds with images and news and ideas and longings and........ the list goes on.
The world today is a noisier place than ever.                                              
Can I, can we, be lured away from that place into a deeper silence where we can be at peace to hear the beauty of bird song or bee buzz, the sound of the wind in the trees or the rain on the roof, the whisper of the still small voice of our God?
 

Holy God of wisdom, 
hear this wanderer's prayer.
Moments bathed in quiet 
shield me from life's blinding glare.

This is the second verse of the hymn and leads us deeper into the lure! The God of wisdom knows the deepest desires of our heart and our prayer. God knows the stresses and strains, the struggles and storms... all the things which we wanderers can classify as "life's blinding glare". 

We are not immune from any of it in the monastery. And yet, God gives us this time of Lent to lure us into a different space, a different way. We often say that the life of a monastic is supposed to be counter-cultural and indeed, people come to our abbey seeking and finding so much that is counter-cultural... silence, peace, stillness, beauty, space, depth... God. 

But, we know, that in the busy-ness of our monastic life, with all its demands, we don't touch those gifts often enough ourselves. Can I, can we be lured to touch them more during these 40 days? 
Silence, 
peace, 
stillness, 
beauty, 
space, 
depth, 
God...
these are all available to us too... in abundance. They are "brightly coloured" things that God is throwing out to us on the lure... come and see is the invitation! Can we be lured?

Holy God, creator, 
plant your seed in me.
Penetrate the desert 
and call forth your dream.

This is the final verse of the hymn. We know that the seed of our Creator God is already in us, planted at our baptism. Meister Eckhart has that beautiful verse where he reminds us that:

The seed of God is in us. 
Given an intelligent and hard-working farmer, 
it will thrive and grow up to God, whose seed it is; 
and accordingly its fruits will be God-nature. 
Pear seeds grow into pear trees, 
nut seeds into nut trees, 
and God-seeds into God. 

 

The lure of this desert time invites us to be that intelligent and hard working farmer, tending that seed so it will thrive and grow up into God. This is our dream, to be the best person we can be... fully human, which is the same thing as growing into God. 

Can I, can we, be lured into calling forth that dream?

So, here we are on the threshold with that brightly coloured lure dangling before us! 
Yes, we might give up some things for Lent; 
yes, we might deprive ourselves of a special treat or two; 
yes, we could encounter hardship along the way BUT, all of these things are secondary to the real purpose of Lent which is 
renewal, return, restore, reclaim, rekindle... whatever re word you like to use! 

It's essentially about us taking the lure, slowing down, becoming more silent and tending that God-seed within us. It can be, if we truly desire it, a long retreat, a place where we discover the true beauty and blessings of the desert place where God will speak to our hearts.

Lent in its Latin context is adapted from Lente which means slowly, without haste, calmly, leisurely. It is these qualities which I ask all of us to embody over the next 40 days. As we so often say, we need each other to enable us all to truly enter into the lure of this time. 

So, let us all strive to slow down in body, mind and spirit and quieten down in body, mind and spirit. 
Solitude...stillness... silence...
these will enable us to LIVE and BE in the present moment and then we will be more aware of God's presence and attuned to the movements in our own hearts and the hearts of one another. 
 
I repeat once more...
silence, 
peace, 
stillness, 
beauty, 
space, 
depth...
God...
these are all available to us... in abundance. 

They are "brightly coloured" things that God is throwing out to us on the lure... come and see is the invitation! 
Will we allow ourselves to be lured this Lent?

I will lure you into a desert place,
there I will speak unto your heart.
There you will learn the treasures of abandonment,
There you will know I am your God.

 

~  Everything that lives and that breathes gives praise to the Lord  ~

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Jamberoo NSW 2533 Australia

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