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This Week's Ministry Message
What is Your Wilderness?
Our Lenten theme “Into the Wilderness” illuminates the path of Jesus into the wilderness that David Henson notes is “not a place of lush green trees, with shaded canopies, rivers, and abundant wildlife. It’s a desert, a foreboding, desolate stretch of sun-scorched earth, with steep, barren mountains and dusty, rocky soil, all of it bleached the color of bones.” Who would dare trek into this territory willingly? Led by the Spirit Jesus goes.
Lent escorts us into the wilderness with an invitation to repent from our sins, to be restored in God’s grace and be reconciled in Christ’s forgiving love. The wilderness is a place of sacred exploration. With humble intention, we ask: how is my relationship with God? We are afforded the concentration of the season to seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to investigate the question and through spiritual practices such as prayer, bible reading and study, Christian fellowship and faithful service to discover the answers. These spiritual practices become resources, tools, to us for when the wilderness is not so graceful but difficult and beyond our ability to humanly cope.
At the foot of a hospital bed awaiting hospice: wilderness. In a high pressure 80 hour a week job that demands more than you can give: wilderness. Aging out of the foster care system with no permanent home: wilderness. Traversing the path of recovery with an alcoholic spouse or family member: wilderness. The wilderness is as much a reality as it is biblical metaphor for our human quest to return to God.
The author of our Lenten study the Rev. Beth Richardson writes, paraphrasing, more and more in these days of social, political, religious, and spiritual upheaval, I find myself feeling that I have entered an era of exile, a wide wilderness world. How did we get here? The 24/7 news cycle overloads experience, our senses overwhelmed with too much data, life accelerated with too much change to manage, the earth groans in climate crisis too real to ignore, the troubles of God’s children near and far make us cry out. Is there a greater truth to hear in the wild?
Our ears, our eyes, our hearts and minds turn to Jesus who treks into a physical and spiritual wilderness with the identity God has given him at his birth and baptism: “my chosen” and “my beloved.” And as we turn, we open our ears and eyes and hearts to realize such a blessing of identity is ours too.
Wrote David Rensberger “every area of our life has some potential to be wilderness.” Hope resides in remaining oriented to God in all our life, attentive and trusting” this is the wild’s lesson. Could the wilderness ever be a place of blessing to us? A location by which we discover a truer understanding of self, a greater dependence on God’s will, a deeper, richer, fuller life of faith with God?
This Lent, we travel the wild in faithfulness to our Christ. In the wild, we affirm God is our helper and our greatest strength. In the wild, like Jesus, empowered to be all God has blessed us to be for the road ahead, we too will declare our Maker’s praise.
Guide us, Great Jehovah. Companion us through all the tests and trials of life and bring us with Christ from the wilderness of our living and into the glory of his resurrection and your glorious kingdom. Amen.
Pastor David Aslesen