Called to Deep Healing

Scripture: Mark 1:1-13

In the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

John the Baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing out their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Wilderness pushes us to our limits. Whether a barren desert, a rugged mountain terrain, or an expansive forest, wilderness reminds us of our needs and limitations. Often our lives become a quest for control, an attempt to bring all around us under our power to serve our needs. When we are confronted with overwhelming circumstances, disease, death, economic hardship, loneliness, depression, we are reminded of our vulnerability. Deep in the wilderness, where our desperation is exposed, we hear God calling us to deep healing.

When I was around twelve years old, I got lost in the wilderness. Literally. We were at my family cottage and I was hiking on a trail that my family frequented. I decided I didn’t want to do the whole trail and thought that I knew my directions well enough and started to walk in the direction I thought would bring me to the road. After awhile, I began to get worried. Nothing looked familiar. I couldn’t see the road. I kept walking and walking. It felt like I had been walking for hours. I started to get hungry. A little thirsty. A lot scared.

I sat down on a log and cried, uncertain of what to do next. I figured that staying in one place wasn’t going to help me and so I got up and started walking again, crying as I went along. Eventually, I came across the shoreline of our lake. I knew it was our lake and could tell where I was. I walked back along the shoreline and eventually got to the road. I ran the rest of the way home thinking of how my mother, the constant worrier, must be so scared. Maybe she had already called the police. Were people looking out for me? Did they think I got eaten by a bear?  I stumbled into the driveway just as my mom was opening the door to the cabin.

“Oh, there you are!” she said pleasantly. “I was just about to call you in for lunch.”

Everyone’s wilderness experience is different.

In what was a terrifying experience for me, my mother was not nearly as concerned. It wasn’t her fault. Not at all. In fact, it turned out I had only been in the forest for half an hour, a normal amount of time for me to be gone. I thought I had been gone for hours.

COVID-19 has been a wilderness experience. And it has been different for all of us. For some, it has been a wilderness journey of grief. For others, a journey of isolation and feeling so very, very alone. For some, a journey of anxiety of not knowing if the choices that you are making are the right ones. Never quite knowing if you’re doing too much or not enough. A journey of economic despair, a journey of overwhelming circumstances, the list goes on.  

When the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, it was a hard time on their people. Because of this, the early church associated the wilderness as a place of barrenness, temptation, hardship, danger and evil.

The Gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus went through this same wilderness journey of 40 days in the desert. But even in his own wilderness journey through the desert, Jesus was not alone. Prior to their journey through the wilderness, the Israelites would have depended on their God being in a temple, similarly to the other gods that would have been surrounded around them in their culture. But God was not limited to a temple. God was brought with them, in a tent. God journeyed with them on the way. The original Hebrew says that God literally came and ‘pitched a tent’ among them.

In whatever wilderness you find yourself in, God has pitched a tent there beside you, waiting with you, enduring whatever hardships you find yourself in with you. In isolation, in grief, in worry, in pain. When the forest seems so dark around you all you can do is sit down on a log and cry.

The wilderness is not only a place of hard times. It is also a place of intimacy. A place where God calls people. A place where God’s people are prepared for renewal and for deliverance and for salvation. A place of deep, deep healing.

It’s a place of beginning. In the chaos of the unformed world, God pitched a tent among us and said “In the beginning there was the heavens and the earth. In the chaos of a Jewish tradition of people who wandered in the desert, who disobeyed and obeyed and disobeyed and obeyed God over and over again God came and pitched a tent among the people in Galilee and the writer of Mark begins by telling us “In the beginning…”

In the beginning there was creation.

In the beginning there was manna.

In the beginning there was a preacher in the wilderness.

In the beginning there was a Saviour.

In the beginning there was the Spirit.

In the beginning there was the Word of God.

In the beginning there was a vaccine.

In the beginning there was a hug.

In the beginning there was God, setting up a tent, making a campfire, sitting beside you on the log and saying “Oh there you are! I was just about to call you in for lunch.”