Holy Asides
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March 2, 2016, 12:00 AM

A Wilderness Adventure with God

As I stated in Sunday’s sermon, one of the important components of reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word is to write the Word. I regret that I have not been writing as much in this space over the past several months, but I hope to rectify that over these final weeks of Lent and carry on this discipline more consistently throughout the year.

One of my biggest struggles with writing is that my “blurb” blog thoughts often become much greater than I intended. This often prevents me from even beginning to write, because it becomes too overwhelming. The theme of our response to freedom in Christ and receiving the glory of God is a good example of this. What began as one idea, trickled to another, and then another until the idea was bigger than I originally intended. Therefore, rather than attempt to tackle the whole idea in one very long blog (or with a normal-sized, but poorly elucidated one), over the next few weeks I want to write about the aspects of our journey in Christ, and the freedom and glory that we are given.

As I was preparing for Lent: praying on the pre-Lenten clergy retreat, reading books, and studying passages of Scripture that we would encounter, I was struck by the patterned response that occurs when receiving God’s glory. When the Israelites received their freedom from oppression and slavery in Egypt, they were led through the Red Sea into the wilderness to make their way to the Promised Land, which the Lord had prepared for them. They had experienced a number of miracles. They had witnessed a myriad of plagues. They were released from centuries of bondage and slavery. They were rescued and their enemies were destroyed. They plundered the Egyptians and fled with wealth. In a powerful and glorious way they experienced God’s glory— yet all was not instantaneously perfect. 

Their experience of God’s glory and the freedom that came from being rescued from Pharaoh’s hand did not bring them to an immediate place of joy and bliss. Rather, they were invited to join God on a wilderness adventure with him. In order to come to the Land of Promise, Israel needed to journey with God and trust God would lead them.  God led them visibly in a cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. When there was no food in the wilderness, God fed them with manna from heaven. When there was no water, he gave them water from rocks. God made a covenant promise with Israel that if they kept the Law of the 10 Commandments, then he would never forsake them, and that he would be their God and they would be his people. Yet—many grumbled. They rejected the glory given them. They craved the foods of Egypt, many even longed to return to slavery rather than face this wilderness journey. They used the wealth that they plundered to make a Golden Calf to worship, instead of worshiping the living God. They refused to conquer the Land of Promise and instead of a brief wilderness journey, wandered as a nation for 40 years before finally coming into that land that God had provided for them.

In Jesus, we are given the fullness of the proper response to God’s glory. When Jesus was Baptized and received the Holy Spirit, he responded to this new freedom—this new glory of Godin a way that reflected and mirrored Israel. He ventured into a wilderness journey with God. The difference, of course, is that Jesus responded in perfect harmony with his Father in this journey. He resisted the temptations that he faced concerning food, wealth, identity, and purpose. He grew in his relationship with God and embraced his role as the Messiah, the Christ, the representative of Israel. From this moment, his whole life and ministry reflected walking in relationship with the Father and doing all that he saw the Father doing.

Somehow, there has been a disconnect in what it means to experience the perfect freedom of Christ and the glory of God in our world today. Rather than understanding that this is an opportunity to enter into a wilderness journey with God, we expect freedom in Christ to bring us financial freedom, freedom from all physical ailments, and freedom from the conflict of relationships with co-workers, friends, and family. However, this has never been the promise of God to us. Jesus promises to abide in us and we in him, to be present with us. But he never promised life would become easy. Rather, it was just the opposite; he says that all who wish to enter into the glory of being his disciples, should deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him. This is an invitation to die, to be humiliated, to be scorned. Peter, James and John were called to go back down the mountain into the world after experiencing the Transfigured Christ. They were invited to walk alongside Jesus, as he demonstrated the example of living in perfect freedom and as he gave himself up to be crucified for the sins of the whole world. Thus, while we have now been set free from the bondage of sin—and showered with the grace of the living God—we are invited not to a life free from pain and strife, but rather into a relationship where we walk daily with a loving and caring God in an adventure of mercy, grace, joy, sorrow, faith and trust with him and with one another.

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