I have a book on a shelf upstairs entitled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by a Japanese expert declutterer and professional cleaner called Marie Kondo. You may have heard of her and her methods. She claims that her methods will help you organise your rooms once and for all with her methods. This involves tackling your home in the correct order, keeping only what you really love and doing it all at once. I have had this book for about 9 years and read it cover to cover a couple of times but as yet, I’ve put off the radical transformation of my home.
A great number of people advocate the benefits of living minimally, stripping back our homes and the things that surround us in order to clear our heads, to live simply and to perhaps improve our well-being.
Under normal circumstances, we would perhaps approach Lent by adopting something similar, perhaps a Marie Kondo Method to Lent, it is after all supposed to be a period for study, prayer and self-examination. Perhaps there are things in our lives, in our metaphorical cupboards that need a good declutter. Perhaps there are things in our spiritual lives that need a good sort out once and for all.
Lent is not tidy and neither is the world at the moment.
Perhaps we escape into Lent to focus on an issue, previously avoided but to declutter thoroughly we have to be honest with ourselves and get our hands dirty.
There is a vulnerability in decluttering, we are exposed to the mess and disorder in our lives that may plague our thoughts and halt our dreams. But we often do not find out what we are here for or what our purpose is until we clear away the mess.
In our Gospel reading Jesus has been baptised, he has broken back up through the surface of the water, the heavens above him are torn apart and this clear vision of a dove beginning to descend captures his attention. What sounds would he have heard, would the river be rushing by or still and calm, would he have water on his face and in his eyes that needs wiping away, would he be pulling his hair away from his face to get a clearer view. THEN, he hears a voice from heaven, we aren’t told that ‘there is a voice from heaven’ we read HE hears a voice from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Then he is DRIVEN into the wilderness, not led, not encouraged, not guided but DRIVEN.
For forty days he is tempted and he is with the wild beasts and yet the Angels wait on him. They love and protect him through his days in the wilderness and all the time they worked through him and in him as a conscious reminder that he can come back to them… to God… again and again so that he could ‘Keep On Keeping On’.
We know what it is like when we want something that we know we should resist. Those temptations always come when we are at our weakest and our most vulnerable. A voice on one shoulder is saying ‘go on, you deserve it or go on say what you think, speak your mind’ whilst the voice on the other shoulder is saying ‘no, it’s not good for me or for others if I do that or say that’. The battles of temptation rage in all of our heads at one time or another and sadly for some people they may be about things that have serious life-changing consequences.
I mentioned in the service on Ash Wednesday that this has been a tough year for us in a lot of ways. There have been many challenges in the workplace, in schools, in our churches, in the places that we frequent in our daily lives and many have felt isolated, feeling that actually the whole of the past year has felt like a year long Lent. We have already done without plenty, without family, health and for some income and for others the lives of their loved ones and at the moment, we may not feel up to stripping yet more of ourselves away in an act of Lenten repentance.
Our trust in God is tested in less favourable times. When things are going well in the world non-Christians don’t feel the need to question us about God but as soon as the world goes ‘off course’ then they ask ‘where is God now?’ We may have asked that same question during the past year, been angry and been tempted to doubt.
Jesus went the way all his people would go, into the wilderness to be tested and tempted away from God but God was prepared and went with him. He was there in the Angels and the Spirit, protecting and loving him through and out of the wilderness. Jesus had to go into the desert to find out what he was for, to accept his part in this story, to relinquish control and acknowledge his dependence on God.
In Genesis Noah is reassured that with God there are rainbows. Even in the harshest of times we all need the hope that lies in glimpse of a rainbow or a light at the end of the tunnel. We all need the reassurance that the voice that spoke powerful words of love to Jesus will find a way through for us all.