Reading: John 5.30-end
"You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life" John 5.39-40
I wonder if you have ever been lost in the woods, or perhaps in a big city, with towering buildings and impenetrable crowds...
One of my favourite books is the Lord of the Rings, and in it there are some wonderous descriptions of woods and forests. Near the beginning of the first book, the four hobbits enter the Old Forest, just outside their beloved Shire. As they get deeper in, the quickly find it harder and harder to know where they are, and they become lost. Paths seem to go the wrong way, trees seem to get taller and thicker and at times, it seems almost that the woods are moving around them. Just when they are feeling hopeless, the paths begin to climb, and eventually they find themselves above the treeline, in the gleaming air, able to see the woodland paths from above. From above, the direction they need to travel is crystal clear.
It is a classic example of not being able to see the wood for the trees. Deep in the forest they had lost all real sense of perspective, and they need space and distance to see a way out.
In today's reading from Morning Prayer, Jesus is calling out his critics for a similar failing. Having been lambasted for healing a man on the Sabbath, Jesus has been defending himself at length. And it is like those critics can't see the wood for the trees. They have their heads in scripture so much, that they can't recognise scripture being fulfilled right before their very eyes! No wonder Jesus is frustrated.
There are may times in life when we too can't, metaphorically, see the wood for the trees, when we loose our sense of perspective. Life might feel overwhelming, and situation so over-grown that you can't imagine any possible way out. And at these times it's easy to persuade ourselves that what we need to do is just to keep on ploughing through the undergrowth, however slowly. But, as the hobbits found, that often leads to going round in circles!
At those times, it can take courage to take time out to get a different view; to get up on a hill (or climb up a tree) and look at the situation from above. To see the bigger picture and the wider perspective. Despite needing a certain amount of discipline to do, in the long run, it will save a lot of needless walking!
For Christians, Lent is a time when we can do just that. It's a time when we are encouraged to step away from the everyday, and step back. A time for us get some perspective and reflect on where we are with God. A time for us to ensure we, unlike those Jesus was criticising, can see what God is doing right in front of us.
Revd Chris Campbell