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Together, Apart Bible Study

Flitwick Church 18thMarch 2020


This is the first of our Bible Studies to explore together, apart, with God, as Coronavirus keeps us from gathering in person. You can leave comments on our Facebook page @FlitwickChurch and join in the conversation.


Christ in the Wilderness – Stanley Spencer 1939


Matthew 4: 1-11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ’ Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you”, and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’ Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’ Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” ’ Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.


Ways to explore the passage

Choose the one or two ways of exploring the passage that feel best for you, or try all four – but not at the same time!


Introduction

God is with us. Jesus is with us. Even now. Especially now. How do we know this? When we can no longer gather as Church in person, when we can no longer worship in our usual way and gain strength from the touch of Christ in each other. How do we know God is still with us?


Jesus came to share human life with us, intimately. To go through all that we go through so that no human experience is beyond the love of God, so that God can transform all human experience.


God is with us in our isolation and fear. Jesus has walked this way ahead of us.


The passage from the Gospel of Matthew was read in Church on the first Sunday of Lent. You have probably read it before. Read it again now. Slowly. Really slowly.


What words spring out at you? What do you notice that maybe you have never noticed before? What seems strange? What don’t you understand? What comforts you? What questions do you have?


You might like to write your thoughts down in a journal and come back to them or share them with the online group.


Meditation

Sit in a comfortable position and take your time on each step. This might take several minutes. Now read the passage again. Close your eyes and enter the scene. Imagine yourself in that wilderness.


What can you see, smell, touch, hear?

What other life is with you in the solitude?

Take note of your emotions as you walk in Jesus’ footsteps further into the emptiness. Away from company and familiarity and certainty.

What is it here that might frighten or unsettle?

What thoughts speak loud in the silence?

What is it here that might bring peace or joy?

In your mind, sit for a while on the hot, stony ground, alone. Now imagine that Jesus is with you. What might you say to him? What would you want to tell him or ask him?

What might Jesus say to you?

What would it be like to stay here for a while?


You might like to write your thoughts down in a journal and come back to them, or share them with the online group.


Thoughts and Questions

Jesus had just been Baptised in the Jordan by John and been affirmed as loved by God, as having a purpose from God. How might that have helped sustain him? What do you carry as we enter the current wilderness apart, together. What might sustain you?


Jesus was ‘led by the Spirit’ into the wilderness. God used this time of loneliness and isolation for good. To strengthen Jesus, to help him to understand who he was and how he should use his gifts. I wonder, how might God use this time with you? How can you make sure there is space for God amid the worry and clammering voices in your head?


Jesus was very human; he would have been hungry and thirsty. Empty shelves in the supermarket may drive our concerns about hunger and scarcity. What is it you really need in this moment?


‘Suddenly angels came and waited on him.’ Who might your angels be, if you allow them? For whom might you be an angel today?


You might like to write your thoughts down in a journal and come back to them, or share them with the online group.


Stanley Spencer’s Christ in the Wilderness

This painting is one of a number depicting Jesus’ time in the wilderness, focussing not on the temptations but how he might have experienced the time and space of those 40 days, how he might have felt.


What do you notice about the painting? Do you have an emotional response to it?


Notice that the figure of Jesus takes up almost the whole space of the canvass. In our isolation, do we turn inwards, do our own thoughts and concerns block out the rest of the world? Is that always a bad thing, or might this be used for good?


Jesus is holding a scorpion. Why would he do that? His touch seems almost tender and he is concentrating intently. I wonder what he is thinking? What would it be like today to spend some time really noticing something small and apparently insignificant? How might that change us?


The Gospels make two references to scorpions: Luke 10.19: “See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.” Luke 11.12: “Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?” What does that tell us about the painting? About what Jesus might be thinking about?


You might like to write your thoughts down in a journal and come back to them, or share them with the online group.

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