As I thought about the wilderness I remembered a time several years ago when I was out in East Texas walking. I was in a wooded area which was enclosed and familiar to me I was passing by trees and streams that I had seen many times before. I was thinking as I walked, trying to understand a situation at work so you would have thought that the familiar surroundings were a good place to do that but for whatever reason I wasn’t content with the setting and felt compelled to go beyond the usual boundaries of my walk to look for a break in the fence enclosing the area and I found one, so I crossed the road and began to walk on a path I had never seen before. I needed a new perspective I was in the wilderness of sort, seeking enlightenment The road was open before me. The sky was blue. The day was sunny there wasn’t much around I was seeking insight and understanding in a flashy Hollywood kind of way, hoping for a owerful, or extraordinary insight. As none came I kind of laughed at myself for wanting that and as I walked on there wasn’t anything spectacular that happened but then I glanced to the side of the road and I saw a simple old wooden post and rail fence with barbed wire in between. The fence was kind of broken down and the wire was rusty. The weird thing was that there were flowers woven in between the wire and little rough bird houses near the top of each post. The flowers woven in between, the birdhouses on each post were subtle reminders of how life and death are woven together pain and blessing side by side. On that day the voice of God was subtle yet clear at the same time. That’s what wilderness can offer us during this season of Lent as we step outside the usual boundaries of our daily routines into the space where we can listen for the nuanced call of God to us as we offer ourselves to God as we enter into this period of self examination.
It is the Spirit who calls us to the wilderness and in Jesus case we are told in the gospel that the Spirit drove him there which sounds quite forceful Why was it so important for Jesus to go there to be tempted? Mark does not give us the specifics of the temptations but in Matthew’s gospel there are more explicit details. Jesus is tempted in the wilderness to turn stones into bread. To throw himself down from the mountain, to worship Satan. In other words to be relevant, spectacular and powerful (Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus, 1989.) What was at risk if he did those things was his solidarity with us as ordinary humans. He resists the temptations to (in the words of Martin Smith) to live in that precarious day to day dependence on God’s voice which is the way for all of us to live. When we allow ourselves to be in the open space of the wilderness, in unfamiliar territory there is more space for us to draw nearer to God and allow God to grow nearer to us. We don’t have to have a Hollywood type of epiphany to do something different but if we keep our eyes and ears open as we go off the beaten path we may find ourselves in unexpected places and circumstances moving in positive ways we couldn’t have predicted. If you were here on Ash Wednesday you heard me speak about Lent as a gift to us as an actual time of refreshment as we repent which actually means to turn, to change direction. As we reflect, as we create spaces through cleaning up some of the clutter in our lives there is an opportunity to see more clearly. Our Presiding bishop has written that Lent is journey that can be about enlightenment. If we are open to turning to the change of direction which is what repentance is all about. Life is enriched as we partner with God. God’s Spirit is at work in our lives and in the world as a whole in mysterious ways
Take for example a recent situation in Copenhagen there were shootings outside a synagogue that left two people dead and five injured. A Muslim group in Norway just yesterday carried out a plan to form a human peace ring around a synagogue in Oslo One of the organizers of the event Hajrad Arshad told the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation that “we think that this is the perfect time for us Muslims to distance ourselves from the harassment of Jews that is happening If anyone has to do anything to Jews in Norway they have to go through us first.” The Facebook page about this event notes Islam is about protecting our brothers and sisters, regardless of which religion they belong to. Islam is about rising above hate and never sinking to the same level as the haters. Islam is about defending each other. Muslims want to show that we deeply deplore all types of hatred of Jews, and that we are there to support them, a step out beyond the usual boundaries to create peace.
Within our own tradition we are called to join hands with other congregations throughout the world on this Episcopal Relief and Development Sunday to support people across the world who are walking in the wilderness of their own because they are hungry, lack of clean water, are sick and lack resources to meet basic human needs. In her article in the Doubter this week Mother Virginia points out that not everyone is as blessed as we are to have their basic needs met. Part of our wilderness walk this season is to follow the way of Jesus. He like we are was tempted to do what he wanted to do, to look powerful relevant and spectacular but he said no to those things and he said “NO” to stand in solidarity with us in our humanness. How will we do that this season How will we create a space to see in a new way, to respond to our brothers and sisters perhaps in ways we have never done in the past? Take a walk in the wilderness these 40 days. Look….. Listen …..God’s Spirit will show you the way.
sermon written by: the Rev. Joy A. Daley
Feb 22, 2015 | Lent IB
Genesis 9: 8-17 | Psalm 25,1 | Peter 3:18-22 | Mark 1: 9-15