What do you think of when you imagine ‘wilderness’?
Is your image of a bleak and barren place?
Or is your image of wilderness a rich natural setting free of other humans?
In Jesus’ day sane, normal people avoided the wilderness. It was a place of dangerous wild animals and dangerous people- both outlaws and those possessed with demons who had been cast out of their communities. And, at the same time, the wilderness played a profound role in many of the ancient Hebrew stories as a place where individual persons, and large groups of people could meet God and be transformed. Moses met God in a burning bush in the wilderness. The Hebrew people needed forty years of wandering in the wilderness to learn how to be God’s people and truly leave behind their lives as slaves in Egypt. During times of Exile, the Prophets spoke of the Hebrew’s captivity as a time in the wilderness and offered the people messages of hope that God had not abandoned them.
On Sunday we will spend some time with John the Baptist who appeared in the wilderness and called the people of Judea and Jerusalem to “Repentance”- to receive a Baptism by water and turn their lives around in anticipation of the One who was coming. People flocked to John “IN” the wilderness to hear his message and receive Baptism in the River Jordan without regard for the ancient prohibition against going into the wilderness. In early Jan. we will watch Jesus go into the wilderness for forty days of fasting immediately following his baptism by John. Wilderness is where Jesus went to prepare for his ministry.
Living Spirit United Church has been living in a wilderness time. I have begun to hear honest stories about the difficult and the good coming from this time: the painful departures and the blessed gifts of this time. Our wilderness time is not over. There are more gifts yet to be found in wilderness time together. Our remaining wilderness time will benefit from the tools available through the Intentional Interim Process.
Over the next two years we will map our way as we explore Five Focus Points:
Heritage- Leadership- Connections- Mission- Future.
We’ll explore each of these areas and discern together what the future is that God is calling this community to. Sometimes the way will be bleak and barren. Sometimes the way will be rich and nourishing. The Good News is that we travel this way with Jesus, our brother, God our Creator and the Holy Spirit, the one who will comfort and teach us. I am blessed to be on this journey with you.