“ZIMBABWE AND THE WILDERNESS”
A sermon preached at the
“…He was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan.
He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.”
Someone told me the other day
that they were giving up chocolates for Lent
- but only before lunch on Tuesdays,
because they liked chocolates so much.
It is the
first Sunday in Lent, a time when we are called
to spiritual renewal -
to re-evaluate our priorities,
to prepare ourselves for new journeys with God.
It is spiritual MOT time -
how many of us ignore that challenge altogether -
or else settle for superficial tokenism - no chocolates on a Tuesday?
life is like a broken down motor car,
do we settle for a bit of superficial polish for the paintwork
or do we use Lent to address the real problems under the bonnet?
Testament prophets were always complaining
that the Children of Israel went through the motions of prayer and fasting,
but beneath the veneer of superficial religious observance,
they continued to victimize the poor and lead selfish lives.
to make sure we don’t fall into that trap -
Lenten discipline isn’t about ticking a few conventional boxes -
it’s about following Jesus into the desert -
its about doing some serious spiritual work,
so that through prayer, fasting and sacrifice
we can come to a deeper understanding of God,
the world and ourselves, and what God wants of us.
hymn we sang speaks of Jesus
going into the desert in order to identify
with the needy of the world in their wilderness experiences.
growth isn’t just about getting to know God better -
it is just as much about getting to know the world better
and seeing what God wants us to do about it.
Thank you Philip for your powerful words about Zimbabwe
To you and all our friends from Zimbabwe -
you, your families and your nation, are in our thoughts and prayers.
absolutely right and necessary that we hold together
our Lenten spirituality and our concern for peace and justice.
Significantly last Wednesday (at the start of Lent)
the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York
chose to speak to the nation about Zimbabwe.
Indeed Dr Sentamu, Archbishop of
fasted for the whole of Ash Wednesday,
and at the start of each hour
he said prayers for the people of Zimbabwe.
Philip talked about the extravagance of the Mugabe regime.
Dr Sentamu said about his Ash Wednesday day of prayer and fasting
that it would provide a sharp contrast with the schedule
of President Mugabe, who was due to attend a £70 a ticket
dinner party at the Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare, part of
a week of sumptuous celebrations to celebrate his 85th birthday.
Lent and the concern for social justice cannot be separated -
we do Lent,
it has to be a time when we follow Jesus into the wilderness -
A time when we seek a deeper understanding
of the world and its evil,
of God and his love
of God’s will and direction for us.
Jesus goes into the wilderness,
Mark says that he is with the wild animals.
That is perhaps Mark’s way of saying that Jesus was brought
face to face with the evil and the violence of the world.
is full of violent animals -
many of them human.
danger with evil is that it flourishes because good folk ignore it.
In Lent we follow Christ into the wilderness
and are with the wild animals.
It is a time to reflect on and confront the evil and the violence -
and indeed to recognize our own complicity in that evil.
Mark says that in the desert Jesus was with the wild beasts -
but they did not harm him.
The angels protected him.
here we have a reference to the great prophecy if Isaiah
about the final victory of God -
when the wolf and the lamb shall lie down together and
God’s rule of love and peace will overcome the forces of evil.
Lent, let me invite you
to undertake some serious spiritual work -
a 24 hour fast might be such a thing -
but you may choose another route.
one means or another, in the next 40 days or so,
can we clear our minds & open our hearts to hear God’s words to us?
Hopefully that will enable us
see the evil of life more clearly
and make sure we are not complicit in it
see the victims of that evil more clearly
and stand alongside them in solidarity with them in their wilderness
see the vision of God’s future
and commit ourselves afresh to work for it
Lent - a time to seek out wild beasts
A time to trust in the angels
Such is the challenge and the promise of the Gospel!
here for “Zimbabwe Crisis” -
a version of the talk given by Philip Bhebhe
during the morning service on 1 March 2009
Order of Service
Sunday 1st March 2009 First Sunday of Lent
a.m. Morning Worship led by Rev Andrew
with Philip Bhebhe on “Zimbabwe in Crisis”
Passacaglia in D Minor - Dietrich Buxtehude
Chorale Prelude (Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend) - J.S. Bach
Hymn 239 “Jesus shall reign”
All Age Ministry
Hymn 25 “He’s got the whole wide world”
Leader: Let us share the peace
Adults: The peace of the Lord be with you
Children: And also with you
Leader: Go in peace
[Young people leave for their own sessions]
Isa 65:17-19, 21-25 (p.752)
Mark 1:9-15 (p.1002) - Gospel for 1st Sunday of Lent
“Zimbabwe in Crisis” - Philip Bhebhe
Hymn “Jesus, who went into the wilderness”
[© Wendy Ross-Barker, in “Let Justice Roll
Canterbury Press 2003 p.26 CCLI Licence No 58752]
Sermon “Where the wild things are” (Mark 1:13)
Hymn 130 “Forty days and forty nights”
[¯ Organ: Canzonetta - Buxtenhude]
Prayer of Penitence from South Africa:
Leader: You asked for our hands, that we might use them for you.
All: We gave them for a moment,
then withdrew them, for the work was hard.
Leader: You asked for our mouths, to speak out against injustice.
All: We gave you a whisper that we might not be accused.
Leader: You asked for our eyes, to see the pain of poverty
All: We closed them, for we did not want to see
Leader: You asked for our lives, that you might work through us.
All: We gave a small part, that we might not get too involved.
Leader: Lord, forgive us our calculated efforts to serve
only when it is convenient to do so,
only in those places where it is safe to do so,
and only with those who make it easy to do so.
All: Father, forgive us,
send us out
as usable instruments
that we might take seriously
the meaning of your cross.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Prayers of Intercession
Hymn “Sing for God’s Glory”
[© Kathy Galloway, from
Iona Abbey Worship Book, 2001 p195
CCLI Licence No 58752 Tune HAP 16 Lobe den Herren]
Prayer: “God bless Africa” - Bert Johnson
¯ Organ: Toccata & Fugue in D Minor (the Dorian) - J.S. Bach