And here we are in the second week of Advent!
Today’s Readings: Psalm 122, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Matthew 3:1-12
Reading Matthew’s version of John out in the wilderness sent me directly back to my trip in Israel/ Palestine this morning. I went to the Middle East during my first year of appointed ministry. Jim, my senior pastor in Corvallis, asked me if I had ever been. When I mentioned that I had not, he worked hard at finding an opportunity to visit the Holy Land. We promptly signed up for a clergy trip in January. Of course it was a bit more touristy than some trips, I was completely moved by my short amount of time there. I would love to go back. Plus my experience was an interesting one being that I was the only female clergy on the trip and younger than anyone else on the trip. This led our tour guide to call me “Baby pastora” the entire time.
But while there, I had many moments of discovering what wilderness might have been for John. Just outside of the city walls would have been wilderness and pretty taboo in some circles. This is where the folk went who were isolated. This is where Jesus went to be tested and tried later on. And here is where John cries out to prepare for the Lord to come. Wilderness represents so many things….times of trial, of wandering, of uncertainty and of preparation.
We all have places of wilderness in our lives. Many communities refer to wandering in the wilderness when they are in between movments or actuallly moves or plans and visions. People describe times of wilderness to mean time with God, uncertainty and big changes. All are correct. Wilderness times can be scary and completely uncertain. And out of that wilderness, John cries out in full voice to prepare. He cries out to reclaim the wilderness for someone who is to come. He gathers his community around him to claim that the Messiah is on his way.
In Israel, there are many patches of wilderness. Below I have attached a few pictures. The first one is of Qum’ran. This is a place where some very important biblical documents have been found. I won’t go into details but this wilderness was extremely important to a number of holy people to write, meditate and be with God. Later this wilderness became important to modern day scholars for enlightenment and knowledge because of what was found.
The second picture is of Jim Fellers and myself on a camel…enough said.
The third picture was one of my favorite parts of the trip (although I could say that about many parts…(staying in a kibbutz on the Galilaen Sea, hanging out in churches where God is tangible, seeing mustard seed everywhere, smelling the spices and eating amazing food, floating in the Dead Sea…you get the idea). Anway, the last picture is of someone from the Bedouin community making (roasting and brewing) coffee to show us hospitality. This is of someone who spends their life in the wilderness. He moves with the community when they need to and listens to the desert.
So the big question today is…what is your wilderness? And how will you listen to the cry to prepare? Where are you wandering today? Is it full of uncertainty? Can you sit with that this season without a direct answer? Try to. In order to prepare your weary heart….sit with it, listen to it, embrace it, wander with it…because John is calling you out there to do so.