Lectionary resources for worship, faith formation, and service
Wildernesses are quite different from deserts. Google Glen Etive in Scotland (it is where James Bond’s latest film Skyfall was filmed). Look for Okavango Delta in Namibia. Search for Okanagan Valley in Canada. There are a million other places that are wilderness rather than desert. Wilderness seems to be a Lenten word, a Lenten longing, for wildernesses bring us to life in some strange and sacred way. They strip us of all our distractions and leave us aware of the greater riches of where we stand, and it is nothing we own or achieve or acquire.
Have you noticed that wilderness does something to time as well? Wilderness seems to have an ability to slow time down, or make our souls move in time to a different rhythm – a more fundamental rhythm. Wildernesses are wild places where there isn’t much that is human-made to rely on. Perhaps it echoes in us that which is more primordial, but whatever it is wilderness invites us into a thinner, slower place where we are given time to meet what is sacred in each of us.
The blessing of the Deuteronomy passage is the chance to recognise that wilderness journeys open us the sacred. Having travelled long enough in the wilderness, the Hebrews came to see themselves as a holy nation. Perhaps they needed those forty years to realise that. When they settled they never forgot that time in the wilderness; offering the first fruits of the land in response, reciting that they came from that wandering Aramean…
Wilderness strips away what we have chosen to cling to. It neutralises those grand identities we give ourselves. That is not a bad thing, as we turn now towards Jerusalem and the cross in this Season of Lent. May we let it happen all over again. This is another wilderness journey for us, of dust and shadows. We are invited to take on a different pace of life and find ourselves in a wild place in which to re-find ourselves and discover what is important to us.
May this time be cross-shaped. May it be a fundamental to us. May it slow us down. Most of all, however, may we let it be a blessing.
May we dare set out with you
leaving aside those things that tie us to the world
and travel with only what we can carry in our hearts
May we lay aside those things we hang on to
and trust in what you do instead
May this be the season
to live through each story:
seek the cross
trust the love
long for the morning
listen for the dawn
taste the cup
break the bread
smell the perfume
hear the silence
May the stories guide us
hold us and shape us
enough that we can lay aside
that which we do not need to carry:
a faith built on impossible miracles
a belief based on skilful theology
and trust instead, love
may we be your companions on the way
with you in wilderness
and with you at the cross
So be it