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Wilderness, Metanoia, and New Beginnings

Mar 18, 2018 - Rev. Dr. Mark Stamm

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The season of Lent has its ancient roots in questions of preparation for baptism. Our Gospel lesson this week shows Jesus being baptized for repentance – a turning away from something toward the Reign of God.

It may seem like an odd way to treat the Son of God, but Jesus was immediately thrown into the wilderness by the Spirit of God. This barren place was a time of temptation and trial for Jesus, but there is also an element of hope and grace in the wilderness. The wilderness is where God was present with the people of Israel and where the law was given to them. As Jesus was in the wilderness, he was with the wild beasts and was tended for angels – and in Lent we are beckoned into the hopeful wilderness with Jesus.

Mark is the only Gospel that mentions these wild animals, and often read it as an ominous comment about wilderness, but that threatening tone is not in the text. Perhaps instead Mark was giving us a glimpse of creation that had been restored – the lion and the lamb laying down together is how Isaiah envisioned it.

We find ourselves often alienated from creation – fearing the dark and the wild beasts, or poking critters with sticks as children. However, we are also alienated from other people, and we throw sticks and insults at each other. We brood over grievances, we perceive differences as threatening, and guns and violence are often the result.

In Lent, we’re called into the wilderness to envision the world put back in order – where violence, selfishness, and fear are abandoned in favor of another path. We repent – turning from this world of violence – and we imagine a world of peace and generosity. We look for creation put back in order and we practice the Reign of God in our own lives.

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