Saturday, January 15, 2005

wilderness handbook: the desert again

wilderness handbook: the desert again
desert living...
...living in the desert.
wilderness: freedom living!
the whole world changes: you shall be called Israel!
...and live as God's chosen people...

This evening I've considered these ideas just a little more and finally I'm getting them out of saved stuff and up on to my blog.


Repeatedly I've written and spoken about the desert's precariousness, life-giving and transformative austerity, as in this pair of citations:
In the desert Israel first rendezvoused with Yahweh; in the desert – driven out by the Spirit – Jesus first met the Spirit; possibly our first meeting with the real presence of the HS happens in the desert, too...not the presence we imagine we need but the Presence God knows we need.

"In the desert Israel ...and the desert frequently becomes the place of our meeting God and of self-encounter, as well." In that post I added, "For us as Christians, baptism is our primal liminal experience. As we enter the waters, should we be prepared to drown? Yes! And we should be equally prepared to be surprisingly raised from that death by drowning!"
Exactly as for God's original people Israel, for us, the contemporary People of God, the desert provides the dynamic reciprocity of intimate relationship, and doesn't relationship test us and ultimately transform us into being truly the person for others in addition to our becoming most authentically ourselves and respecting of our self? Living in the desert means living in risking trust rather than assumption and comfort; it means learning about, interacting with, about relating to an "other"; reconciling and reuniting; shedding the past while [hopefully] learning from it. In the wilderness we learn about moving into the future with hope and about thriving in spite of scarcity; fearlessly learning not to hoard during times of prosperity and relative abundance. Ditching self-reliance, depending on the human *other* and – finally – depending completely upon the Divine *Other*.

wilderness: freedom living!

Trekking through the wilds means living in liberty at that very moment just as much as our desert exoduses are passages to the land of promise. True in our wilderness as individuals and particularly for our community we seek a metaphorical Jordan, but on the way, what do we find? We find and meet insistent others with needs and gifts parallel to ours; we discover natural resources above, beneath, before and around us, assets that will help everyone meet the requirements of daily existence. Freedom living? Either in solitude or in community, when we’re in the desert we do not have a whole lot of choice about our responses; we have little choice if we seek substantial quality of life, so in the desert wilderness our easiest and most free course of action becomes obedience to God’s demands to love one another and bear each others’ burdens, eventually and ultimately holding not only a single Feast in the Wilderness but countless Feasts in the Wilderness!

Isaiah 35

Isaiah 35:1-2

1 Wilderness and desert will sing joyously,
the badlands will celebrate and flower—
Like the crocus in spring, 2 bursting into blossom,
a symphony of song and color.
Mountain glories of Lebanon—a gift.
Awesome Carmel, stunning Sharon--gifts.
GOD's resplendent glory, fully on display.
GOD awesome, GOD majestic...
6a Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness,
streams flow in the desert...
7 Hot sands will become a cool oasis,
thirsty ground a splashing fountain.
Even lowly jackals will have water to drink,
and barren grasslands flourish richly.
—MSG
Rivers in the desert!

Once upon a time, as in ages ago, I put together a photo-collage of desert images and phrases; one of my favorites was "Don’t go bare into the wilderness," followed with, "You have the words of eternal life" and "Claim it today!" The Words of eternal life is exactly what Jesus took into the desert with him right after his baptism in the real River Jordan; Moses'people left Egypt led and accompanied by a Word-speaker who in real life interacted with the Word-giver and even mediated the celebrated Sinai Covenant. In theology, water is a recurrent metaphor for the Holy Spirit; each individual and each community has a quadrivium of needs that includes water, food, shelter and places of nurture. Scripture calls us to choose between life and death, blessing and curse and as I've stated here before, I believe the Reconciling Christ Event is so drastic, so inclusive and so all-encompassing of everything and everyone created, all creation is born, lives, dies and rises in Christ. However, God sets before us the ways of life and death, and to a limited extent, the choice of salvation, wholeness and reconciliation becomes ours.

Streams in the wilderness

Streams tend to be smaller and generally less extensive than rivers? But primarily because they're littler, streams have other attributes, such as compelling us to careful stewardship of the essential gift of water, such as making us thankful; such as leading us to bless the Giver of the Gift—including the gift of the wilderness desert that makes us so aware of its concealed beauty and unseen life.

Desert rivers

As we more and more live in trust, those "rivers in the desert" slowly and imperceptibly become desert rivers! In other words, the rivers take on characteristics of the desert. Paradox? Yes, of course!!!

Wilderness streams

In the same way rivers in the desert become desert rivers, "streams in the wilderness" become wilderness streams. How and why?

the whole world changes...

The whole world changes? Not just my, your, our smallish and more-or-less self-contained worlds? A lot of life is synergistic in a lot of ways. The "World" goes far beyond and transcends our little, proprietary universes and begins touching, reaching and transforming people, places and ideas far, far beyond our immediate heres and nows and this world of ours becomes huge! Astounding? Both yes and no! As we approaching our Jordan, we're on the cul-de-sac of life, a place with no outlet except to continue – you cannot go back (if you keep looking back you won'’t know where you’re going). Because – really! – God does not see our past...

you shall be called Israel!

Jacob refused to leave without a blessing: God loves, God blesses people who persevere, who are tenacious! After Jacob wrestled with the spirits of the [Genesis 32] human and the Spirit of the Divine, God conferred on Jacob his new name; Jacob left Gilgal and went to [genesis 28] Bethel, "House of God," because he needed to go there to get established in God’s house. After [Joshua 5] Gilgal and then at Bethel, no longer was it "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,"” but rather the Jacob of God, the one newly-named Israel! Named and called by your name by the Word of Life!
22 And [Jacob] arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. 23 He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. 24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob's hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26 And He said, "Let Me go, for the day breaks."

But he said, "I will not let You go unless You bless me!"
27 So He said to him, "What is your name?"
He said, "Jacob."
28 And He said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed."
29 Then Jacob asked, saying, "Tell me Your name, I pray."
And He said, "Why is it that you ask about My name?" And He blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: "For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." 31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. NKJV
Long later, the New Covenant scriptures give us this amazing text:

"To the one who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except the one who receives it."...and I will give her the Morning Star!... Revelation 2:17

...and live as God’s chosen people...

Well, yes, of course! The whole idea and purpose of learning to live through hot, dry days and chilly, dry nights is to learning how to live as People of the Covenant, learning how to live as people elected by grace and enabled in the power of the Holy Spirit…did I say something about water symbolizing the Spirit? Throughout the witness of scripture and in the course of our daily walk, water, wind and fire equally symbolize the gift of Divine Life!

Exodus 13

From Exodus 13:
3 And Moses said to the people: "Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out of this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. 4 On this day you are going out … 5 And it shall be, when the LORD brings you into the land...a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall keep this service in this month. 6 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD. 8 And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, "This is done because of what the LORD did for me when I came up from Egypt.

14 So it shall be, when your son asks you in time to come, saying, "What is this?' that you shall say to him, "By strength of hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
[scripture text heading: The Wilderness Way]

17 Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, "Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt." 18 So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt.

21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. 22 He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.

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