Wilderness Time, Jesus and Tough Decisions
As I was preparing a sermon on Jesus in the Wilderness, a fellow priest shared with me the story of her encounter with the wilderness which took place—in her mother’s bedroom. As they were preparing for bed one evening, her mother called to her, saying “I think there might be a snake in my bedroom.” Sure enough, there was, and they locked the snake there until morning, found help to remove and return it to the wilderness.
We encounter wilderness in two ways: we enter intentionally as Jesus did after his baptism, and wilderness comes to us where we “live and move and have our being,” whether we want it to or not.
“After his baptism, the spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness for forty days to be tempted by Satan; he was with the wild beasts and the angels waited on him.” After his time in the wilderness, praying and reflecting on God’s plan for himself, Jesus was ready to face whatever temptations came his way, and to proclaim the good news that “the time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe." (Mark 1:12-15)
Jesus entered the wilderness intentionally to prepare for the wildernesses that would come to him throughout his life and mission. Lent is a reminder to us that we can and must do the same. We enter the wilderness, whatever and wherever that is for us, so that we too can be prepared for the wilderness that comes to us, whether we want it or not.
I spent some time in the wilderness last week, hiking along Town Creek as it flows into Lake Guntersville. I took black and white photos, sat in the peace and quiet of the forest in the light drizzle. I needed the alone time to prepare, as Jesus did, for the unexpected wildernesses in my life. I needed time to clear my head, escape social media, and people who “have all the answers.” I needed this to find my strength in God’s strength, to prepare for the wilderness that will come to me.
The wilderness that comes to us takes many forms. The latest wilderness that engulfed me was the shooting at Douglass High School in Broward County, Florida. As frustrating and sad as the shooting was, the shouting back and forth of solutions with little or no listening by anyone was worse. My friend, singer, songwriter Jess Muse posted on her Face Book Page: “I am hearing the expected answers with little discussion and less listening. Can we try talking with each other with open minds, caring more about the children than we do that our solution be the one chosen.”
I don’t have the answers, but I believe Jess is on to something. We need to have a national conversation and put everything on the table: anger, hate, mental illness, gun regulations and money. We also need to seriously consider that teenagers whose friends and teachers were killed in this and similar disasters are, in fact, qualified and entitled, perhaps more so than some of us, to be at that table. I also believe that the time to deal with this issue is now, not “when the time is right.”
As a Christian I have three recommendations for myself, and offer them as suggestions for others: first, I will not get my information and news from posts on social media; second, I will respect the opinions and experiences of others whether I agree with them or not; and finally, I will use this Lenten time “in the Wilderness” to open my heart, soul and mind to God: to hear God’s call, and pray to receive strength and wisdom to be, not part of the problem, but, part of the solution; to hear the words of Jesus, “the time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is near.”
Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in us the fire of your love.
Send forth your spirit and so we shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the Earth.