Sunday, February 21, 2010


Why did God’s Spirit lead Jesus into the wilderness after John baptized him? Why did he not eat for 40 days? Why was he tempted? And what’s the Message for us today?

I have been thinking about the wilderness, the place where Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit; wondering, “What was it like;” wondering how Jesus’ mind was occupied, what did he think about. Was he preoccupied with his survival as we would be or was he totally centered and focused on his Father and the journey that lay before him? Was his time in the wilderness akin to what Native American Indian men encountered when they went out on a vision quest? And I wonder why we aren’t led into the wilderness by God? Or maybe we are but it’s a different type of wilderness.

The wilderness intrigues me. When I think about wilderness I imagine a barren landscape that is dry and hot with very few trees or shrubs, but I guess it could be bitter and cold too. There wouldn’t be anything there to aid our survival. Being in the wilderness would be a real survival of the fittest and the strongest. I wonder if Jesus was thinking about survival.

Probably not, since I believe he knew what was waiting for him in Jerusalem. The wilderness was a place where he could be without any distractions. He was there and didn’t worry about food or water because I think he was so focused on his communion with the Father. Kind of like but not the same as when we become so engrossed in a task that we forget to stop and eat lunch or supper. Not exactly the same since Jesus, as Luke tells it, didn’t eat for 40 days, a very long time to forget to stop and eat.

So Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit of God where he was tested by the Devil. Was there ever any doubt that Jesus would pass the test? I don’t think so but…

Back when I was younger there were those who went on quests to find themselves. Do you suppose the Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness to find himself? Do you think we are led into places of wilderness to find ourselves? I wonder…

Or are we led into the wilderness to get so lost and so in need that we can’t help but call out to the One who can save us? I wonder…

If we are led into wildernesses I wonder if they’re all the same. Is my wilderness like yours? I think they’d be different but I don’t really know. I would suppose that they’d be different because you’re probably not in search of the same thing that I’d be looking for. Would God’s Spirit be leading us to the same place? I wonder…

This idea of being led into a wilderness is a little bit scary. I’ve never been in the wilderness by myself. I think it would be very unnerving. I just realized that if the Spirit led me into the wilderness then I probably wouldn’t have time to pack any essentials, like bug stuff or bandaids or clean socks or another pair of shoes or a tent. What’s it like to be in the wilderness without our safety net? Pretty scary, I’d think.

Don’t you think we’re led into our wildernesses like Jesus so we won’t be bothered by any of the distractions or noises of the world? Are we led to the edges of our lives to walk in the shadows for awhile? Sometimes we may feel God leading us and other times we may feel like we’re being driven or herded there. I guess it doesn’t matter how we come to find ourselves in the wilderness of our lives but I believe its then that we can begin to find some clarity. Without all the noise and light pollution we might be able to hear God’s still, small voice in the silence of the wilderness. Is this place where God’s Spirit leads us close by or far away?

These are questions that came into my mind. Don’t you think we need to know these things if we’re to go on a quest in the wilderness? Even when I don’t really know where I’m headed I feel like I need to make some kind of preparations. What should we do to prepare for this wilderness journey?

I’m not sure we’re ever fully prepared when we’re led into the wilderness. Jesus may have been, but of course he was God’s Son, we’re not. It may be that our wildernesses can be found in the ordinariness of life. We go on our adventures looking for God willy nilly and he’s right here. We try to find God, and ourselves, our purpose for being, by looking in many exotic places and it very well could be that what we are seeking in the wilderness is right here. Or rather, our wilderness is right here. After all aren’t we all just a little bit lost?

All that being said I believe the Holy Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness so that he could be very certain of the direction he was to go and who he was following. It took 40 days, a very long time, but way shorter than if it had been you or me. Oh, and he passed the test in the wilderness. I’m not sure I would have. What do you think? Would you have won the battle against temptation?

Friends, as the poet Ann Weems puts it,
“Lent is a time to take time to let the power of our faith story take hold of us; a time to let the events get up and walk around us. A time to intensify our living unto Christ; A time to hover over the thoughts of our hearts; A time to place our feet in the streets of Jerusalem or to walk along the sea and listen to his word; A time to touch his robe and feel the healing surge through us; a time to ponder and to wonder. Lent is a time to allow a fresh new taste of God!”

Ann also wrote about a different wilderness. A wilderness we know all to well.
God is somewhere in the snowing…
Unpredictably interrupting the world from its drivenness if only for a while.
Stop…wonder…ponder…and see something beyond your own schedules.
Stop…and listen to silence, snow falling on snow.
I hear a voice asking: Who are you? I search to find an answer; I falter: “I am…”
And then I see. I have the eyes to see. I have the ears to hear. I see through the falling snow, I hear through the silence, I know: I am he who belongs to I AM.

Friends, we have forty days to wander in the wilderness seeking, searching, listening, wondering, pondering. Please take time each and every day to read God’s word for you and reflect on what it is speaking to you in your wilderness. Sit in the silence and allow Him to fill you with his living water and his grace. Then you will be prepared for your journey to the Promised Land.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

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