God holding handScripture Text:  John 12: 20-36

20Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. 27“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.


We had this passage week before last, but it also appears as the Holy Tuesday lectionary reading.  We know about the wheat, how the seed must die so that the fruit can be, how, essentially, the seed must surrender itself, allow itself to die so that it can become something else.  It’s hard for us to grasp.  Those of us who live in Western society are much more accustomed to being told what to believe, for our beliefs to grow as they are added on to each other until we are so full of a collection of beliefs that we are about to explode.  The idea of surrendering, of letting a part of oneself literally fall away is foreign to us.

This morning (because I’m late in posting this), the Today Show interviewed three faith leaders as part of their week-long series on faith and spirituality.  The question for this morning is “Who is God?”  That’s a pretty big question.  It’s essentially the same question with which those in this Gospel account are struggling.  Who is God?  See, they said, we’ve learned from the law that the Messiah remains forever.  We got that.  So what is this about being lifted up?  And who this Son of Man character that you keep talking about?  But we are no different.  We would be much more comfortable if God just laid it all out for us, made it all a bit more obvious, maybe just made that light into which we are supposed to walk so incredibly overwhelming that none of us could miss it.  What we’re saying is that we would be much more comfortable if we COULD faithfully answer the question “Who is God?” and know that we are actually getting it right.

But then we are told that we have to die, give up the self that we have tried so desperately to hone and perfect.  Essentially, if we let our ideas and notions about who God is die away, we will know who God is.  Now that just seems ridiculous, doesn’t it?  I don’t think we come to know God by learning about God.  We come to know God as we discover who God is in our lives, as we walk through the wilderness where God is revealed to us without the shadows of our lives and our preconceived notions getting in the way, as we walk through the darkness and finally see the light for ourselves rather than it being something that blinds us to itself.

Jesus never really gave a straight answer to this question.  (ACTUALLY, I don’t really think Jesus ever gave a straight answer to many questions.)  We are instead compelled to follow, to leave ourselves behind, and to come and see for ourselves.  Our faith journey, our coming closer and closer to God, our own way that God is revealed in our lives comes about through discovery rather than memorization, through doubt rather than certainty, through darkness rather than blinding light.  So as we walk through this Holy Week, let us leave ourselves behind and discover our Lord anew, discover the God who will raise us up if we are not so tied down.


Religion is about transcendence, and spirituality is about finding meaning in the mundane. (Joan Chittister)

“You Raise Me Up” (Josh Groban):


FOR TODAY:  Close your eyes and let yourself slip away.  Open them and look for the light that you were missing.


Grace and Peace,


Poured Out

Anointing of JesusScripture Text:  John 12: 1-11

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” 9When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.


You can imagine these friends around this table filled with the scents of wonderful food, telling stories and laughing together.  They knew that the environment was difficult in the city.  They knew that outside the warmth of this home were whispers of what was to come.  But, for now, it felt better to just be together and not talk about what was brewing outside.  And then Mary gets up and picks up this beautiful jar of expensive perfume.  She pours it lavishly on Jesus’ feet not caring to conserve it at all.  The smell of the perfume fills the room.  And Mary kneels all the way down and loosens her hair, letting it fall to the floor.  She then uses her hair to wipe the oil from Jesus’ feet.

In the silence created by the others in the room, Mary expressed her deep love for Jesus.  She knew who Jesus was and she knew that the hour of his death was fast approaching.  So, Mary put herself on the line, violating all of those societal rules that were in place.  First, women weren’t supposed to put themselves in a position of being the center of attention.  They were not supposed to touch a man that was not their husband,  And the hair…for a woman to put her hair down in public would have been a disgrace.  And then she wastes all that costly perfume.  But you see, Mary was truly overcome with love for Christ.  And she wanted him to know that she got it.  The act was part of her.  It was sacramental, an expression of who she was and what Christ’s love had made her.

Think about some of the language of the story—Mary took, poured, wiped.  We will hear those same words this Thursday in the account of Jesus’ last meal:  Jesus took the bread, poured out the wine, and wiped the feet of the disciples, and through these common gestures and such common touch, Jesus shows us what true love is.  And as Mary takes, and pours, and wipes, she shows that same love toward Christ, and this small crowded house in Bethany becomes a cathedral and this simple meal becomes a Eucharist. Through her touch, through her love, the ordinary becomes sacred.  Mary enters Jesus’ life and he becomes part of her.  Her life becomes a sacrament that shows Jesus’ love to the world.  And the whole world is now forever filled with the fragrance of that perfume.  This was Mary’s calling.  It was the way she loved, filling the house with the scent of grace and gratitude, filling the house with all she had, all that Jesus had made her be.

In this holiest of weeks, what would it mean for you to love Jesus that much?  What would it mean for you to love anyone that much, so much that you would defy who the world thought you should be, so much that you would risk your reputation, your relationships, perhaps your life?  What would it mean for you to pour yourself out for Jesus?


If you cannot be a poet, be the poem. (David Carradine)

Enjoy…”Grace and Gratitude”, Olivia Newton-John

FOR TODAY:  Take, pour, wipe.  Give lavishly and extravagantly.  Be the poem.


Grace and Peace,


Entering This Wilderness Week

?????????????Scripture Text:  Mark 11: 1-11

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 11Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.


Here we are—bustling city, Passover festival, and a parade!  It seems that we’re not in the wilderness anymore!  As Jesus comes into Jerusalem, there is excitement and joy.  He is here!  And they honor him.  But, to be honest, we probably read a little bit more into this parade than is there.  From the time I was little, I had this sense that Jesus came into the middle of the city, flanked by the all of the crowds.  He was “it.”  (But then it didn’t make much sense as to why it went so badly so fast.)  The truth is, Jesus was not “it” in Jerusalem.  Jesus was heading what was then a small fledgling movement on the outskirts of established religion.  He was coming down a narrow road that winds down Mt. Olivet and was then entering through the eastern gate of Jerusalem, the “back door” of the city, for all practical purposes.  Hmmm!  It seems that Jesus makes a habit of coming in the back door—into forgotten grottos and wilderness baptisms and ministries that begin around a lake rather than a Holy City.  So this seems only fitting.  Maybe that’s the point.  God doesn’t always enter in the way we expect, doesn’t always show up when it fits the best into our schedule.  Instead, God slips in through the back door of our wilderness lives when we sometimes barely notice and makes a home with us.

So the onlookers stay around for just a little while.  And then the parade fizzles.  As the road goes by the Garden of Gethsemane and down toward Bethany and the outer walls of Jerusalem, many leave and go back to their lives.  Maybe they had something to do; maybe they didn’t want to contend with all the holiday traffic in downtown Jerusalem; or maybe they were afraid of what might happen. So Jesus enters the gate of the city almost alone, save for a few of the disciples.

Where are we in this moment?  Jerusalem is here.  The wilderness through which we’ve traveled is behind us.  But it has prepared us for a new wilderness of sorts.  As followers, we know that the road is not easy.  It will wind through this week with the shouts of “Crucify him” becoming louder and louder.  The road is steep and uneven.  And the shouting stones and clanging iron against wood will be deafening.  But this is the way—the way to peace, the way to knowing God.  This is our road; this is our Way; this is the procession to life.  The way to the Cross, through the wilderness of this week is our Way to Life.

Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass.. it’s about learning to dance in the rain. (Vivian Greene)

FOR TODAY: Keep walking. Keep following. There is no way around. Walk with Jesus all the way to the Cross. For there, you will find life.

Grace and Peace,


The Wilderness is Where We Knew Where We Must Go


Scripture Text:  Mark 9: 2-10

2Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. 9As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.


The wilderness has taught us to see things differently, to open our minds and widen our souls.  It has called us to remove the veil that we have created in our lives to shield us from the things that do not make sense in our world.  The journey through the wilderness has brought us to this place, brought us to this mountain.  Don’t you think the disciples were sort of wondering where they were going?  After all, they had left everything they had, had given up everything and sacrificed all of those things that made life secure and safe.  They did it all to follow Jesus and now they are climbing up this mountain to a place that they did not know.

The mountain that Jesus and the disciples climb sounds a lot like Mount Sinai rising out of the wilderness that Moses had ascended centuries before.  And there on the mountain, they see Jesus change, his clothes taking on a hue of dazzling, blinding white, whiter than anything they had ever seen before.  And on the mountain appear Moses and Elijah, standing there with Jesus—the law, the prophets, all of those things that came before, no longer separate, but suddenly swept into everything that Christ is, swept into the whole presence of God right there on that mountain.  And then the voice…”This is my Son, my Chosen:  listen to him!” OK…what would you have done?  First the mountain, then the cloud, then these spirits from the past, and now this voice…”We are going to die.  We are surely going to die,” they must have thought.   And then, just as suddenly as they appeared, Moses and Elijah drop out of sight and Jesus was standing there alone, completely unveiled.  And all that was and all that is has become part of that, swept into this Holy Presence of God.  And, more importantly, we are invited into it.  No longer are we shielded from God’s Presence.  We become part of it, a mirror for all to experience and encounter the living God. And so the disciples start down the mountain.  Jesus remains with them but they kept silent.  The truth was that Jesus knew that this account would only make sense in light of what was to come.  The disciples would know when to tell the story.  They saw more than Jesus on the mountain.  They also saw who and what he was.  And long after Jesus is gone from this earth, they will continue to tell this strange story of what they saw.  For now, he would just walk with them.  God’s presence remains. The Hebrews understood that no one could see God and live.  You know, I think they were right.  No one can see God and remain unchanged.  We die to ourselves and emerge in the cloud, unveiled before this God that so desires us to know the sacred and the holy that has always been before us.   The truth is, when we are really honest with ourselves, we probably are a little like the disciples.  We’d rather not really have “all” of God.  We’d rather control the way God enters and affects our lives.  We’d rather be a little more in control of any metamorphosis that happens in our lives.  We’d rather be able to pick and choose the way that our lives change.  We’d rather God’s Presence come blowing in at just the right moment as a cool, gentle, springtime breeze.  In fact, we’re downright uncomfortable with this devouring fire, bright lights, almost tornado-like God that really is God.

Here in the wilderness, with bright white lights and shrouds of wonder, we have seen God.  Here, in this place, where the wilderness has brought us.  We have arrived open-eyed and soul-ready for God’s Presence to be made known.  And this was nothing like anything that we would have imagined—Old Testament heroes re-appearing, God speaking from the cloud, and Jesus all lit up so brightly that it is hard for us to look at him.  And then the lights dim.  There are no chariots, Moses and Elijah are gone, and, if only for a little while, God stops talking.  And in the silence, Jesus starts walking down the mountain toward Jerusalem.  You know, on some level, for all the dramatic sequences of this story, I think the way down the mountain is the point of it all.  I mean, think about it, the disciples went up as students, as mentees, as admirers, and came down as followers.  The way down is where the transformation begins to be, when they know where they had to go.  Now I’m sure that Jesus knew that the ones who walked with him were not ready.  I’m sure he knew that they thought they had more time with him.  I’m sure he knew that they doubted themselves.  But it was time.  And Jesus knew that if they followed, they would know the way.  And in this moment, Jesus’ journey to the Cross begins and the disciples, for all the antics that they will pull over the next few days, begin the same journey.

And us?  I’m sure Jesus knows how difficult this has been for us.  I’m sure Jesus knows that there is a part of us that would’ve liked to have avoided the whole thing, to move from the Mardi Gras party right into the sanctuary when they are setting up the Easter lilies.  But then we would have missed the wilderness and we wouldn’t know where to go.  We know now what we must do, where we must go.  We know that we are called to follow Jesus.  The way down is hard.  Jerusalem is going to be even harder.  But the wilderness has taught us that it is where we must go.  You see, in this wilderness, we have changed.  We have learned to let go, to get out of ourselves, to see things differently.  We have learned to listen.  We have learned to follow.  And that is what we will do.  Jerusalem awaits.


When I first met him, I knew in a moment I would have to spend the next few days re-arranging my mind so there’d be room for him to stay. (Brian Andreas)


Jerusalem AwaitsFOR TODAY:  The gates of the city are just up ahead.  There is no other way around.  This is not an easy journey.  But it one that all of must walk.  As you enter this Holiest of Weeks, what do you need to leave behind?  And what do you need to carry into the city?


Grace and Peace,


The Wilderness is Where We Changed Our Course

Change-DirectionScripture Text:  Matthew 15: 21-28

21Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.


So Jesus travels to a place that is not his, to an unfamiliar place some distance away.  It’s not the wilderness the way we normally define it with deserted pathways and dangerous hideouts and such.  But it IS a wilderness.  When we journey through unknown territory, through places that are not our home, through places that are not ours, places that we have not planned or planted, there is a certain wilderness aspect to them.  In Jesus’ defense, he has to be tired.  He has to be craving some time along to regroup and reflect on his mission (OK, maybe that’s what the introvert in me is projecting!).  But then, all of a sudden, this woman comes up and she’s shouting at him with a foreign accent—not just a loud shout but one that is incessant and wailing and very annoying.  She is begging and begging him to heal her daughter.  But what could Jesus do?  After all, his mission as he understood it was to the Jews and here was this Canaanite Gentile wanting some of his time. Truthfully, this woman had everything working against her—gender, race, religion, class, and nationalism.  In the first century, she was the “outcast of the outcasts”, an outcast even in this wilderness in which Jesus finds himself.

Put yourself in Jesus’ place.  “Perhaps if I ignore her, she will go away.” But, then, the disciples get involved.  “Good grief,” he probably thought, “if they would only be quiet.”  And the woman keeps on—shouting and wailing like some sort of banshee.  What do you do with a pushy Canaanite woman who won’t shut up? “Don’t you understand…I am not here for you…I must first attend to the Jews…the chosen ones…the children of God…the people to which I was promised…it would not be right to abandon their mission for another.”  (I will tell you, the reference to “dogs” is not a nice one.  Without offense to the dog-lovers or dogs among us, in Jewish society, dogs were looked upon as unclean, as scavengers.  To compare someone to a dog was to lower them to the bottom of society.)

But the woman responds, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the masters table…Even I, the Gentile, knows that you are Lord.”  All of a sudden Jesus’ tune changes.  This woman has a faith that will not quit.  This woman DOES get it!  The mission is indeed to the Jews. But this woman’s faith has brought her to Jesus as a sign of what is to come. This moment is, in effect, a sort of turning point for Jesus’ whole mission.  In fact, at the risk of overstepping, you could almost say this was a sort of “conversion point” for Jesus.  You also have to consider that this turning point is the reason we’re sitting here.  We are not the “children of Israel” but rather those to whom Jesus’ mission was broadened to include.

I’m actually grateful that the writer that we know as Matthew didn’t try to clean up the story.  This is a powerful statement on Jesus’ humanness, his searching, his exploring, his changing.  In this moment, there, in the wilderness, in the place that was not his, Jesus saw a broader vision of God than even he had had before.

I think that’s why Lent tends to be this sort of wilderness journey.  Traversing through places with which we are unfamiliar, places that perhaps do not feel like home, perhaps will never feel like home, gives us a new perspective.  Maybe we’re not called to make ourselves at home at all.  Maybe we’re rather called to continuously journey through newness, continuously open our minds and our hearts just a little bit more with each turn of the pathway.  I don’t believe that God calls us to stay planted where we are; otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many of these pesky wildernesses in the stories of faith and in our own lives.  You see, the wilderness is where we change our course, where the road turns if only one small degree and unsettled though we are, we turn with it and continue our journey.

But whether small or great, and no matter what the stage or grade of  life, the call brings up the curtain, always, on a miracle of transfiguration-a rite, or moment, of spiritual passage, which, when complete, amounts to a dying and a birth.  The familiar life horizon has been outgrown, the old concepts, ideals, and emotional patterns no longer fit; the time for the passing of a threshold is at hand. (Joseph Campbell)


FOR TODAY:  Look at your lives as if you were visiting.  What is out of place?  What doesn’t fit?  And what is calling you to change your course, to walk in a new way toward a new place?

Grace and Peace,


The Wilderness is Where We Found Who We Are

Diving into watersScripture Text:  Mark 1: 4-11

4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of  sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  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.”

So Jesus was born in the wilderness.  So Jesus, even as a small child, was whisked off into the wilderness to surely save his life.  And now, Jesus goes into the wilderness and is baptized by John.  You see, Jesus wasn’t baptized at the beautiful marble or wood font that is in the front of your sanctuary.  Jesus wasn’t baptized surrounded by the comforts of air conditioning and pew cushions.  When Jesus knelt, there was no altar cushion beneath his knees.  There was no celebratory lunch after his baptism.  Jesus went into the wilderness and made his way into the cold water of the Jordan, feeling it first with his foot and then slowly, ever so slowly, making his way to the place where John stood.  And as he walked into the water, his clothes and his body were consumed by the waters and the chill overwhelmed him.  And then John, clothed in stinky wet camel’s hair with a sagging leather belt around his waist, gingerly took Jesus and pushed him beneath the swirling waters of the river.  “In the Name of God, I baptize you.”  And as Jesus rose out of the water, gasping for breath, he looked up and the heavens were torn apart, torn apart never to be put back in quite the same way again, never capable of going back to the way they were.  And from this gaping opening in the heavens, the Spirit seemed to descend like a dove.  And they all heard it.  “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

In that moment, there in the wilderness, Jesus found who he was.  There in the wilderness with the wild animals and the blowing sands and the swirling waters of the river Jesus found who he was.  There in the wilderness where life is wild and unpredictable, where the path is not as worn as the one we frequent in the city, where the dwelling place is open to the sky and not walled in, where nothing can be controlled and nothing can be held, Jesus found who he was.  It seems to me that Jesus keeps returning to the wilderness, keeps returning to the place where we don’t expect him to be.  Perhaps our cue is that we are called to do the same.  Perhaps the wilderness is where we find who we are.

You see, in the comforts of our homes, in the security of our lives, in the places where we close our doors and lock them off to the world, we are told what we should be.  We are told that we should pursue success and affirmation, that we should climb the ladder with our accomplishments and our resume’.  We are made to believe that if we mingle with the right people and show up in the right places and post cute little pictures and statements on social media, we will get somewhere.  But in the wilderness, where the pathway is unpredictable and not well-trodden, where we experience some discomfort and disillusionment with who we are, where we experience crises of identity and crises of faith, where we feel like we don’t fit and we don’t belong, where we feel, sometimes, like we can’t even connect with God there, there, we find who we are.  We are pushed down into the waters of unknowing and we emerge with a new perspective.  We are immersed in something that we do not control and cannot stop and find new ways to be.  And the heavens open and the very Spirit of God spills onto us.  And we hear it.  We hear who we are, a daughter or son of God, God’s Beloved, with whom God is well pleased.

Maybe we’re beginning to see a pattern here.  Jesus’ life was not exactly charmed in the worldly sense of the word.  It seems, rather, that the wilderness kept cropping up, somehow pulling him into its grip.  I don’t think it was a test.  I think it was God’s way of pulling us toward freedom, God’s way of releasing us from the expectation of others, from the assumptions that the world hands us of who we are supposed to be, that there is a certain path and a certain way that our life has laid out for us.  Jesus’s life was mostly about walking in the wilderness, walking the way that was not the expected, that was not the norm, walking the way that opened himself to being immersed so that, finally, he could find who he was.

Perhaps that’s the point of our Lenten journey.  It is not just a denying ourselves of something; it is not just doing something different, walking a different walk for a short season.  This Lenten journey forces us into the wilderness, with cold water and murky pathways and hands us a mirror so that we take a good hard look at our lives and finally, finally find who we are:  A daughter or son of God, God’s Beloved, with whom God is well pleased.  And knowing who we are, everything has changed.

It is in the act of offerings our hearts in faith that something in us transforms…proclaiming that we no longer stand on the sidelines but are leaping directly into the center of our lives, our truth, our full potential. (Sharon Salzberg)

FOR TODAY:  Let yourself go into the wilderness.  Immerse yourself.  Find who you are—a daughter or son of God, God’s Beloved, with whom God is well pleased.

Grace and Peace,


The Wilderness is Our Place of Refuge

desert%20shelterScripture Text:  Matthew 2: 13-15

13Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”


We are accustomed to the wilderness being a scary place, a wild and unpredictable mass of chaos that becomes our nemesis, our thing to conquer. So how can it be a place of refuge? There is nothing about it that feels safe. There is nothing about it that feels like we are in control. There is nothing about it that feels like it is protecting us. And yet, after the birth of Jesus, after that hard birth in the grotto of Bethlehem, Joseph is called into yet another wilderness. Joseph is told to flee to Egypt. The reason that Joseph and his new family are called into the wilderness isn’t about awakening or questing or getting to a promised land of some sort. Joseph is called into the wilderness so that the wilderness can be a refuge. What an odd twist of events?


But when you think about it, this has happened before. The Israelites were released into the wilderness in order to pursue freedom, freedom, ironically, from Egypt. The wilderness is their way to freedom. And now, Joseph and his family return, traversing the wilderness in search of freedom, in search of safety from Herod, from the certain death of Jesus the child. Maybe Egypt was never the captor at all, but just the other side of the wilderness, the other side of freedom. But this fleeing into the wilderness by Joseph and Mary and their child is to gain refuge. Here, the wilderness is a place of refuge.


Maybe it’s the same for us. Maybe we don’t trust it as refuge because we can’t control it or predict it or pave its path. After all, we tend to think of it as “all or nothing”. How can I guarantee my safety? How can I protect myself against all harm? How can I insure that nothing will happen to me? Well, you can’t. God does not provide some sort of Divine bubble around our lives. Things happen. Bad things happen. Maybe rather than closing us off to life, God calls us into wildernesses so that we will have nothing to hold onto except God. God provides a refuge not from the things of life or the things that we can’t control, but from those things that get in the way of who we are, those things that perhaps protect us so much that they become our captors, our enslavers. But in the refuge of the wilderness, we have to let them go. For us, just as those before us, the wilderness is our way not to safety or protection from life, but to freedom. Because in the freedom of the wilderness, when we have let go of the things that we hold so tightly, we find that God is holding us, providing a refuge, a way to freedom, a way forward.


This Season of Lent, like the wilderness, is often wild and untamed. And yet, it gets us out of ourselves, providing a refuge, offering freedom so that we can move forward finally unhindered and free from enslavement. This Lenten wilderness journey can be our refuge if we only let it.


God, I am sorry I ran from you. I am still running, running from that knowledge, that eye, that love from which there is no refuge. For you meant only love, and love, and I felt only fear, and pain. So once in Israel love came to us incarnate, stood in the doorway between two worlds, and we were all afraid. (Annie Dillard)


FOR TODAY: Leave yourself behind. Let God provide a refuge in the wilderness, freedom from what stands in the way of life. Do not run. Stay and bask in the loving refuge of God.


Grace and Peace,