The word "wilderness" will prompt different responses depending upon an individual's perspective and experiences. For some, wilderness may be a dark and foreboding place, a place filled with danger and despair. The wilderness is where people lose their way. It is a scary, even deadly, place. For others, wilderness is a wild and wonderful place. It is a place filled with unspoiled beauty and exciting adventures. It is a place that refreshes and rejuvenates the soul.
Over the years, my experience of "wilderness" is the latter. I have led a number of canoe trips down the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. The stillness, the absence of light and noise pollution, the wildlife and the beauty of Creation sang God's most beautiful song. Whether camping in the north Maine woods or sitting at the seashore, I experience the holiness of God's Spirit in wilderness places.
Jesus did as well.
Jesus retreated to the wilderness to pray, to speak with God. Jesus slipped away to the wilderness to refresh his soul and prepare for his ministry. The wilderness was where he faced his greatest challenges and also where he drew his strength.
"Wilderness" is not necessary a physical place. It can also be a spiritual or emotional place. Our spiritual and emotional wilderness places can also be both terrifying, or enriching and uplifting depending upon our experiences there.
As we enter into the season of Lent, we enter into a wilderness time. Some of us may struggle as we confront painful circumstances. Some of us may soar as we deepen our spiritual lives. Whatever our experience, God meets us in the wilderness. God strengthens us and leads us to safe places. God speaks sweet words of comfort and assurance. God lifts us on wings of the Spirit. There is no place in the world or in our hearts where God is not present to us.
This week we begin our Lenten journey. We will gather tomorrow evening (2/26) at 6:30 PM for an Ash Wednesday vesper service. The first session of the Lenten Study Series, "Journey to Jerusalem," will follow the service.
Sunday is the first Sunday in Lent. Our focus at both the 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM worship services will be the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:1-11) We will also gather for the Lord's Supper. All are welcome. Join us.
Congregational ChurchUCC, SACO MAINE12 BEACH STREET | SACO, ME 04072