The Lenten season brings a new sermon series that will guide us through this introspective time through the lens of Rehab. Following scriptures from the Revised Common Lectionary, each week will bring us into explorations of: wilderness, intervention, program, recovery, and promise.
This Sunday, we focus on wilderness. What is the wilderness? Wilderness represents times in our lives when we begin to face, head on, our own brokenness. We admit we have fallen and can’t get up on our own. We admit we have lost our way. We admit we are facing trials and temptations. We admit we have come face to face with evil. We admit that we can no longer manage on our own. We need help. We need a Savior.
For some, being in the wilderness is temporary. For others, it is the status quo of their entire lives. But whether our wilderness is temporary or seems to be permanent, we experience it the same. Being in the wilderness is a time of testing.
The wilderness is where the wild things are. There is no ready supply of food or fresh water. The wilderness is desolate. It is a place of desperation. But wilderness also speaks to periods of life or states of mind: lost, unsettled, wandering, discerning, tempted by Satan, tested by God. The wilderness is a time of trial. It is a probationary period.
Heading into the wilderness, whether it’s imposed upon us or we voluntarily go, is only the first step in the rehab journey toward reconciliation, healing, and wholeness. But it is a step we must take to start the process of recovery.
Mark 1:9-15 (CEB)
9About that time, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. 10While he was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw heaven splitting open and the Spirit, like a dove, coming down on him. 11And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”
12At once the Spirit forced Jesus out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and the angels took care of him.
14After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, 15saying, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!”
Consider these questions:
- What is the difference between planning to go into the wilderness versus finding yourself in the wilderness without preparation?
- How does going into the wilderness lead to transformation and hope?
Post-Sermon Update on 2/19
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).
Sunday’s message took a hard look at our current culture, particularly as we remember Jesus being driven into wilderness where he experienced isolation and temptation. A few of the ways we talked about the current wilderness of our culture were:
- gun violence***
- sexual harassment and inequality for women
- racial tension
Understanding that these are just a few ways our world can feel like wilderness, we might also be reminded that Jesus has walked the wilderness before. And just as angels cared for Jesus on his journey, we might experience the care of angels (however it is that we think about angels) as well.
Consider these questions:
- How is beginning rehab or physical therapy similar to a wilderness experience?
- How do you think you would handle an intense period of temptation similar to what Jesus faced for forty consecutive days? What would it reveal about you?
- What lesson do we learn about how Jesus went from the joy of his baptism immediately into the wilderness where he was tempted?
***Addendum on Gun Violence
During the Questions of Faith section of the worship service, I responded to requests for my thoughts about the gun violence and deaths of 17 students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The audio is available below, and following are several links to sources mentioned.