Wilderness Re-Created

14-11-02-#6-Sermon-Thin PlaceScripture Text:  John 20: 1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes. 11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

 

Whew!  We made it through the wilderness.  The tomb is open and all is good.  The morning was glorious, full of light and life and, finally, alleluias.  THE LORD IS RISEN!  THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED!  The long Lenten wilderness journey is behind us.  Whew!  We made it!

But don’t you remember what kept happening in the wilderness?  In the wilderness, when we’re so unsure of where to go, when darkness seems to overtake us at times, when we often feel stripped of all we know, God comes.  God comes and re-creates in the most incredible ways.  God comes and brings light into darkness and life into death.  God comes and we are changed forever.  That happens in the wilderness when we no longer have the familiar and the comfortable to which we can hold.  Like Mary at the tomb, we are reminded to not hold on to what we know but rather to open our hands to the newness that God offers.

After Lent, we go back to our lives.  The time of giving up and emptying out is behind us.  So with what do we fill our lives?  If we go back and pick up where we left off, cramming our lives full of all the stuff that we just stored in the closet for the season, it will all be for naught.  But if we finally know that in all of God’s resurrecting, we, too, were raised.  If we remember that in all of God’s re-creating, even the wilderness, the chaos, was made new again.  If we find ourselves with eyes that see differently and hearts that beat in new ways, we will see that the wilderness is where we are meant to be.  We were never meant to settle into ways of thinking and be satisfied with routine ways of being.  Instead we are called to go forth into newness, into what we do not know, down roads that our faith calls us to follow.

It seems that God is continually calling us into places and times that we’ve never been, constantly empowering us to push the limits of our “comfort zones”, to embark on a larger and more all-encompassing journey toward a oneness with God.  It seems that God always calls us beyond where we are and beyond where we’ve been, not to the places that are planted and built and paved over with our preconceptions and biases but, rather, to places in the wilds of our lives with some vision of a faint pathway that we must pave and on which we must trudge ahead.  Perhaps, then, this wilderness journey is not one in which we launch out and pursue a new life but is instead one that brings us to the center of our own life, one that brings us home, but changed.

The end of all our exploring…will be to arrive where we started…and know the place for the first time.  (T.S. Eliot)

FROM NOW ON:  Make the wilderness journey your home.

 

Well, we have come to the end of the season.  I am honored that once again so many of my old friends joined me for the journey.  And along the way, there were others that I am so grateful chose to join us.  That’s what happens when you travel unfamiliar roads!  I’m going to take a break from the “every day” writing and will try to post at least once a week or so.  Stay tuned!  Keep journeying!  AND, email me and let me know YOUR thoughts!  I’m going to try to put my email in “code” below my name so the spammers don’t find me, but you are smart people and you can figure it out!  Thank you again for journeying with me!  Happy Easter!  WE ARE RISEN!  WE ARE RISEN INDEED!

 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Shelli Williams 13 (run all those together), then [that funny little a with the circle], gmail.com

Let My People Go (Into the Wilderness)

Open gatesScripture Text:  Exodus 5: 1

 Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, so that they may celebrate a festival to me in the wilderness.’“

We know the story. The people had been taken away, held in slavery. And now, God is insisting: “Let my people go.” The truth is, it probably wasn’t slavery as we think about it. There were probably not prison bars or shackles or anything of the like. Their slavery may have resembled more of an indentured servant or perhaps an economic enslavement. They could not leave, of course, but not because they were held but because they were bound. It was just as bad and in some cases, it is harder to claim release.

 

So God screams, “Let my people go.” The truth is, maybe God wasn’t worried about the economic enslavement at all. Because, you see, they had been there awhile, a couple of generations if you’re counting. And as generations go on, we forget, we forget who we are. It would have been so incredibly easy to lapse into the Egyptian society. It wasn’t bad. In fact, it would have been easier to do just that. But it wasn’t who they were. Somehow, I think God’s concern was not that they were economically enslaved but that they had forgotten who they were.  In God’s vision, the wilderness, the place where darkness loomed, was better than the place of safety that enslaved the people.

 

SO, does this sound familiar?  We are not enslaved.  We are, however, bound.  We are bound by our lifestyle, by what our life expects us to be.  We are bound by the expectations of others.  We are bound by our plans for what our life holds.  We are bound by what we think we are supposed to be in this world.  We, too, have forgotten who we are.  And, just as God did so long ago, the Divine screams into the night, “Let my people go.”  We are not enslaved in the usual sense.  There are no prison bars and no shackles.  But we are enslaved.  This season of Lent is God’s time, God’s time to scream “let my people go,” and be heard.  And even the wilderness is better than what we have.

 

The wilderness is calling.  The place where we are not bound, where we can finally learn to be free, where  danger meets us and we know that rather turn to the ones who enslave  us, who offer no help in the wilderness, we will finally look to God.  Let us be the ones who finally, once and for all, know that we are offered freedom, freedom, mostly, not from whom holds us, but from the one who we are not.  Let us be the people who, finally, go and be the one that we are meant to be.

 

I think most of the spiritual life is really a matter of relaxing — letting go, ceasing to cling, ceasing to insist on our own way, ceasing to tense ourselves up for this or against that. (Beatrice Bruteau)

 

FOR TODAY:  In what ways are you enslaved?  What would it mean to be let go?  God is waiting to do that.

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Shelli