This messaged was shared at Urban Sanctuary Sunday February 18th, 2018.
Driven Into the Wilderness
9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” 12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
On Wednesday, many Christians around the world began the journey of Lent, a ritual and liturgical recounting of Jesus journey in the wilderness.
And on that same day we were all reminded yet again that we are in another kind of wilderness as a country. We are lost in the wilderness of greed, bowing down to false idols of all kinds, instead of protecting our kids and our sense of safety in public places. 17 more lost at once from one person and one gun.
We are in the wilderness… driven there by power and disconnection and violence. We are lost, thirsty, looking to be quenched-tempted by the lure of forces that care only about more and more and more…
What do we do in this wilderness place?
There are wildernesses beyond wildernesses in our world- places that are dry and inhospitable to hope. There are wildernessness created by the crush of capitalism, militarism, racism, addiction, sexism.
There are wildernesses beyond wildernesses in our world…
And this season I find myself thinking of the sorts of wildernesses that are hard and also generative. Are you with me?
Because it seems to me that after Jesus has his long, hard journey in that Judean wilderness, he makes this big bold statement about where God’s realm can be found and he says that it’s at hand… After testing and temptation, beasts and angels, Jesus sings out, “The Kingdom of God has come near…”
I have read and heard this passage in Mark more times than I can count, but I missed this before, Jesus wilderness journey was not asked for. He was pushed there, driven there.
And I don’t think that means God pushes the rest of us into wilderness places, but I do think it means God is present with us there, accompanying us somehow and working within us in ways we cannot fully understand.
Maybe the wilderness times that don’t kill us, move us. I have been pondering some of the wilderness seasons I survived. My parents divorce when I was a child where my life was split in two and then a serious bout of depression in college that forced me to rethink mental health and wellness…
These wilderness times were painful where I felt separate from the best of myself… and yet something powerful happened where the pain allowed an expansion in me that was deep and adorned with questions. In the words of the poet Rilke, “You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions? For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
For you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you.
I struggle in these days to know what to do about all of the wildernesses beyond wildernesses in our world, but it is clear that for every beast there is an angel too.
On Thursday at the Homecoming and Opening Celebration of Recovery Café San Jose, we heard a story from Diana about her life before finding the Café. She knew lots of wilderness times and through her tears she shared about some of them. And yet as she stood there strong and proud, she finds herself in a different landscape with life and wholeness and most of the wilderness behind her. God did not push her into those wilderness places, but God was present with her there, accompanying her, working in her somehow. The healing community of Recovery Café brought her angels.
Maybe you are in the wilderness in your life right now and for this season of Lent together; our hope is to be intentional about creating spaces and rituals of healing- collectively, communally, and individually. We believe and live out together that love heals. The way out of the wilderness is the healing power of love- the space to share our stories, the space to say out loud what hurts and what needs a blessing, the space to be reminded there are angels to be seen.
May we accompany one another in all of our wilderness places… May it be so…