A reading for Monday, January 12, 2015: Mark 1:1-13.

In the Bible, the wilderness is the place of danger, struggle and challenge. The people of God are under threat when they are living in the wilderness.

In one of the earliest stories from scripture, Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael out into the wilderness at the request of Sarah. The Israelites wander the wilderness for 40 years after they escape the rule of Pharaoh. Much later in the story of God's people, when Jerusalem falls to foreign armies the people are driven into the wilderness as slaves of the conquering people. The wilderness is any place that represents movement away from safety, security and what is known.

And yet here's the thing... it is very often the Spirit of God that is moving God's people into the wilderness. It is not accidental or because something has gone wrong and the people are being punished with a "trip to the wilderness." Instead, it is the Spirit of God moving us from what we know to what we don't know perhaps to help us understand how to live as the faithful people of God.

Today's story about the baptism of Jesus is case in point. John the Baptist has gone to the wilderness to preach and to baptize. The wilderness is the place where the message of the coming Messiah is first heard in Mark's gospel. John quotes Isaiah who proclaims a voice crying out in the middle of the wilderness. It's not from Jerusalem and the temple as most would expect. The message is coming from the wilderness.

Then Jesus is baptized and immediately, the text says, he is driven by the Spirit of God out into the wilderness. It seems strange to us. Why would Jesus need to go to the wilderness? Now that Jesus is anointed with the Spirit of God, shouldn't our Lord go to work preaching, teaching and healing? But that's not what the Spirit of God is doing.

The question for us and our times is where is the Spirit of God leading us?

Are we being led from the safety, security and what is known?

Is that why is sometimes seems like faith and church are so unsuccessful and unpopular with our neighbors and friends?

Is this our calling by the Spirit of God to enter the wilderness so that God can help us understand how to live as the faithful people of God?

The good news is that the Spirit of God that calls us into the wilderness also attends to us while we are there. God doesn't abandon us. Jesus is present with us and promises to never leave us, no matter where we go and what we encounter.

Lord, send us your angels to comfort and protect us as we enter into the wilderness. Show us that you are well pleased with us and continue to call us to be faithful to every circumstance of our lives, even when we journey into the unknown. Grant us your peace!


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