The readings on which the sermon below is based can be found at:
http://users.bigpond.net.au/frsparky/r098.htm

s098g06 Bloomfield Hospital 5/3/06 Lent 1

"the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness" Mark 1.12

There are wilderness times in all of our lives. Sometimes we can feel very alone, even when there are lots of people around us. Other times we find ourselves part of a family and community where we can just "go with the flow".

Even in the wilderness Jesus found there were angels ministering to him.

We might think of our time here in hospital as a time of wilderness, yet there are people here who care for us, just as the angels ministered to Jesus. They are the staff and the fellow patients.

But perhaps our time here is one where there is actually a more supportive community, and home is where we are the more isolated. And perhaps it is there where we will need to look around us to find the angels God puts around us to care for us. Many, many people are isolated within our community.

I have often remarked how I was brought up in the era when "children were to be seen but not heard". These days young people are encouraged to have their opinions and express them; to develop their talents and use them publicly. And I think how healthy this is. I was the youngest of three boys, so I usually felt "out of my depth" in my early life. I was naturally shy. This is another form of isolation, another form of wilderness. It is only now that I am beginning to trust myself.

Whatever the reasons for our isolation, it is good to look around us for the people God puts around us to help us. "It is not good for man (or woman) to be alone" and God does provide.

Our gospel reading finishes with the words: "repent" -- and I whenever I hear this word I think of Jesus great parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost brother, where Jesus explains what he means by "repent". He means: "rejoice with me" for something or someone has been found. The self imposed or the inadvertent isolation has been broken.

Rejoice that we are "found" -- none of us are alone, even in our wilderness and times of isolation. God knows each and every one of us.

A long time ago, we had a Jack Russell puppy, and I vividly recall one day she found that we had a Chihuahua as a neighbour near by. Bonny and Rudi had a wonderful game -- a sort of combination of "hide and seek" and "chassey", and I've often thought how much this is a picture of our relationship with God. The shear delight of finding the person who had hidden themselves, not because the person doing the finding won any points, but simply the joy of being reunited, and so that the game could go on and they could continue to enjoy one another's company.

So me coming to Orange might be a wilderness experience for me, as I miss my two sons and the people who were around me who were familiar. Yet I have found the companionship of people like Fr Howard, Fr Max and Fr Frank a great encouragement.

Our gospel tells us that Jesus also had his wilderness time, a time when he had to wrestle with who he was and how he was to do God's will.

And sometimes the wilderness times in our lives are when we grow the most, when we too have time to ourselves to find out who we really are and how we too are going to do God's will.

If we find it difficult to live with ourselves, with no one else around, perhaps this may alert us to the fact that others might also be having the same difficulty living with us as well? :-)

So if we seem alone, fear not. God is with us, as well as the people around us; and the lessons we learn during this time are important.

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