Saturday, January 02, 2016

In the Wilderness

As for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, so that you do not need anyone to teach you. But his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false; just as it taught you, remain in him. 1 John 2:27

So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” John 1:22-23

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul.
He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. (Psalm 23)

During Advent, we had several readings about John, his voice and the voice or lack of voice that his father Zechariah suffered.  With that basis, I really thought I would reflect today about John getting his “voice.”  However, in going back to the Hebrew Bible to re-read the passage in Isaiah that formed the basis for today’s Gospel, something did not fit together.  When I read it, and then checked with the way it was passed on in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, it did not seem accurate. 

Here is what is written in Isaiah: “A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” (Isaiah 40:3)

Isaiah does not say where the voice is located.  Isiah explains that our way to the Lord begins in the wilderness.  From that wasteland, we can be led back along the highway to God.

What we read today and elsewhere in the Synoptic Gospels is at a minimum a re-punctuation and reinterpretation of the Hebrew text of Isiah 40:3.  The prophet does not require John to go to the desert.  The prophet requires us to go to the desert.  It is only “in the wilderness” that we can prepare the way of the Lord.  John goes there to lead us there so that Jesus can lead us back to the restful waters and the cool streams of the well-travelled road.

Our preparation for the Messiah must start in the wilderness.  After baptism, then Jesus will lead our New Exodus back.  Moses led the Israelites back to the Promised Land through the desert.  Joseph led the Holy Family back to Nazareth through the desert.  

Our journey back does not start at the Sandals all-inclusive resort.  It does not start on the Norwegian cruise line.  It does not start at the IMAX 3-D screening of Star Wars: A Force Awakens or on the Main Street in Disney World.  Our preparation does not begin on Hollywood and Vine, Madison Avenue or either end of Pennsylvania Avenue.  It also does not start in Iowa or New Hampshire.

We may not be called to or through the actual or physical desert.  Some may be but not all.  However, in our life, we may be called to or through a psychological, emotional, social or spiritual desert when we think we are alone.  Allow Jesus to lead you to still waters and restore your soul this year. 

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