A voice cries out: ‘in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’ Isaiah 40:3
This past Sunday, Risen Lord gathered for the first congregational study for Lent. I’d like to include those of you who were unable to participate this week on what we learned together.
What’s the most beautiful wilderness are you’ve visited? For some gathered on Sunday, it was Yellowstone, the Redwoods, the Canadian wilderness, the Grand Canyon, India, and Thailand. My personal favorite is the miles and miles of Death Valley National Park. These places are, indeed, beautiful, but without guidance and preparation, they can be dangerous. Not all pioneers crossing the Death Valley region two centuries ago made it out alive.
There truly are physical landscapes with sweeping vistas and fascinating wildlife and unique cultures to discover. There are also personal wildernesses which was summed up beautifully this Sunday by Oleg Zook as “anything that is unknown to us.”
We certainly endured many unknowns having survived through a pandemic. We’ve learned so much about who we are and WHOSE we are as God’s beloved children. We’ve learned so much about each other. As we come out of the unknown, we still have much to discover about ourselves, even as we still are learning how to navigate life with the virus still there and still a looming threat but maybe less so.
We look to Jesus, himself, who embarks on a 40-day wilderness journey and faces temptation by the devil. Jesus doesn’t take the easy way out of that wilderness, nor does He take the easy road as He pressed toward Jerusalem and the cross.
From Christ, we learn compassion, a Latin word with roots from pati and cum that means “to suffer with.” At the Crucifixion, Jesus dies and suffers for and with a broken humanity. How might we face our personal wildernesses, filled with unspoken questions or worrying thoughts? We could take the easy road and keep a stiff, upper lip, yet when we speak them aloud to one another in community, they no longer hold power over us. We discover we aren’t alone.
Shannon Fritz led an activity on Sunday that deepened the connection among the 30 participants gathered. We discovered light-hearted things about each another, like who preferred waffles to pancakes and who was an extrovert or introvert. We shared experiences, like when we felt welcomed or excluded at worship. We learned what we are excited about with the upcoming lease with Tapestry Church and what worries us.
We joyfully discovered from those around us, including new and returning visitors, that Risen Lord is a very welcoming congregation. That is good news, because each week, we unfold a piece of our welcome statement. The first sentence is: God creates, loves, and welcomes all people.
Take a moment to ponder our creative God who has and continues to create, love and welcome you and every person no matter what wilderness road any of us is traveling. Maybe you’ve just moved to the area. Maybe you’re struggling with a serious change in your life with work, a relationship, deep loss, addiction or illness.
At Risen Lord, we are working to prepare a highway and clear the path, so that you know you aren’t alone in your wilderness. We journey together, discovering and proclaiming God’s profound love for all along the way.