The Wilderness is Where We Began

Creation 1Scripture Text:  Genesis 1: 1-3

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.


That’s not the wilderness!  Wilderness has thick, unsculptured trees or endless sand, hard-to-follow paths or paths that keep disappearing.  This isn’t a wilderness. There’s nothing there!  But don’t you think nothingness, a formless void covered in darkness is just about as ultimate a wilderness as you can imagine? And keep in mind that there WASN’T nothingness, per se.  There was a void, a glob (that’s an official very spiritual term!) of disordered chaos.  And God was there, there in the wilderness with the chaos and the glob.  All of Creation began in this wilderness.  God spoke the first creating Word in that wilderness.  God spoke and the formless void began to slowly follow God into being. As the Spirit of God swept over the waters, they moved and parted, letting go of the part of themselves to which they had held so tightly, and they began to change.  And then with another Word, God called Light forth and darkness began to be illuminated.  Creation had begun.  We had begun.  The wilderness is where we began.

We know the rest of the tale.  God continued to create, continued to order the wilderness, to one by one call Creation into being—earth and sky, plants and suns and moons and ordered seasons, swimming creatures, winged creatures, creeping creatures, walking creatures, and, oh yeah, us!  As the last bit of ordering of this incredible called-out Creation, God created Sabbath, the pinnacle, the climax, the glorious coming together into perfect order of all of Creation.  And God delighted in this order and called it good.

The wilderness is where we began.  In our beginnings, in our disordered chaos, God called us forth into being.  God created us not in a haphazard way but in the very image of God.  God called us forth to live into that image, to become the very ones that God envisioned we would be.  We were probably pretty OK in that wilderness void; after all, we knew nothing different.  And then God created us into something new.  And God called it good.  We were God’s delight, God’s beloved.  Oh, sometimes we wander away. Sometimes we mistake really pretty acceptable chaos for God’s ordering.  Sometimes we think we have a better idea of who we could be than this image of God.  And so we need to return to the wilderness, to the place of our creation, to the place where we began, so that God can say us into being once more.

That’s what Lent does for us.  Lent calls us into the wilderness to remind us who and who’s we are, to remind us of that image in which we were made.  Lent calls us into the wilderness so that we can begin again.

Every act of creation is first an act of destruction. (Pablo Picasso)

FOR TODAY:  Look around at this wilderness.  What does it mean to begin again?

Grace and Peace,


You Start at the Very Beginning…

Dawn in the wildernessScripture Text:  Mark 1: 1-8

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And 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. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He 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 his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Do you remember the song from “The Sound of Music”?  “You start at the very beginning.  A very good place to start.  When you read, you begin with A-B-C; when you sing you begin with Do-Re-Mi.  The first three notes just happen to be Do-Re-Mi. Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti…..oh let’s see if we can’t make it a little bit easier…”  (Yeah, I’m a Sound of Music dork.)  We’re used to that…starting at the beginning, learning our A-B-C’s before we jump headlong into reading Tolstoy or something.  But, the writer of the Gospel According to Mark seemed to just sort of want to get this show on the road.  We’ve become so accustomed to the beauty and poetry of the nativity that somehow that becomes the season for us.  But here…”The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  That’s it.  That’s all you get.  No announcement of Jesus’ birth, no birth story, no stable, no inn, no manger, no Mary and Joseph and the babe, no shepherds, no magi.  Just that.  It’s sort of like the Gospel writer is saying “refer to the previous volumes”.  But, of course, most Biblical scholars will tell you that there WERE no previous volumes of the Gospel but that this one was the first.  So, what is that beginning?


Then it goes on:  As it is written….Essentially, the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is everything that came before–all the prophets, all the judges, all the Wisdom, all the kings, Elijah, Moses, Ruth, Jacob, Abraham, Sarai, all the exiles returning home, all the burning bushes and parting waters, all the covenants, all those generations upon generations of people who wandered in the wilderness.  And now…now appearing in the wilderness is this wild, somewhat unkempt, bear of a man who clothes himself in camel’s hair and eats what appears to be whatever crosses his path in the brush.  There were certainly those with “proper” upbringing and “acceptable” expression of their religious beliefs that probably would have been a bit embarrassed by the display.  I mean, maybe it would have gone down easier if it had been someone a tad bit more “traditional”.  (But then, really, was Jesus all that status quo?)  And yet, I’m fascinated with this character of John the Baptist.  He knew who he was.  He knew his place.  He was called to prepare the way.  He was called to BE the voice crying out in the wilderness.  He was called to prepare the way of the Lord.


The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Here we are, in the wilderness of our lives, wandering a little aimlessly at times, trying our best to connect to God, to feel God’s Presence in our lives.  And yet, we know that God did not plunk down in the middle of the bustling city of Jerusalem.  God did not come in the way that was planned or imagined.  The Son of God emerged into the wilderness that was already there, already so full of God that the very earth shook.  The truth is, God had been there all along.  The good news of Jesus Christ was always beginning.  The same is true for us today.  What we are living is not some sort of prelude of a life to come; it is the very beginning of the story.  Maybe that’s our shortcoming.  Maybe we live lives limited by the chapters surrounding us.  But God…God came and comes over and over and over again, beginning, recreating, starting us over.  Advent is the season of beginnings–the beginning of the church year, the beginning of us, the beginning of what comes next.  Advent is not a preface to the high holy day on which we celebrate the Savior’s birth.  Advent reminds us that we, even now, are the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”  The truth is, the story ALWAYS is at the beginning!


When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly. (Edward Teller)


FOR TODAY:  How are you called to prepare the way for Christ?  How are you called to begin again?



Grace and Peace,