Support the Café

Search our Site

In the Wilderness

In the Wilderness

“. . . the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.”


As I read the passage from the Gospel of John that is our Gospel for today, this was the phrase that popped out at me. And it seemed like a good focus for a weekday early in the season of Easter. It’s a simple, yet powerful image. A man, a key figure in the Christian story, who is in the wilderness and hears the word of God.


I wonder exactly how it happened. Was John praying or performing some simple task, like the Desert Monastics of the late 4th and 5th century, who went solitary into the wasteland of Egypt to get closer to God? Did he perceive God’s voice as Samuel did, as a call in the night that seemed like it had come from his teacher, Eli? Or did he hear something still and small, like Elijah on Mount Sinai after the wind and the earthquake had passed? Maybe God’s voice came out of thunder. Maybe John was up on a hilltop, looking across a vast, barren landscape. Maybe he watched distant clouds move across the sky above their landlocked shadows and heard a voice in the wind. Maybe he was alone in his cell and his houseplant was on fire. Or, on the other hand, maybe he had just awakened from sleep, and he was groggy and unfocused.


He just somehow came to know. No matter what the particulars of the event of John hearing the word of God, I think he just came to know with certainty what he was supposed to do. So off he went into the region around the Jordan, and he proclaimed a baptism of “repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” He prepared the way of the Lord.


The profound mystery of Easter calls all of us back into the wilderness. The wilderness is that place of confusion and uncertainty we all feel when God expands beyond the box we’ve held God in and reveals God’s self as something astonishingly and wonderfully different. The disciples in the Upper Room, after Jesus’ resurrection, were in the wilderness. With each new understanding we embrace, we are, too.


Here we are, God’s people. Now what? We are the inheritors of the upside down understanding that is Christ’s message to the world. We have seen something that has changed the human heart forever. Now what? Where do we turn? What do we do? What is the next right thing for us to take on in this topsy-turvy 21st Century with all its conflicts and challenges?


It is important that we, like John, abide in the place of uncertainty. The wilderness must be our dwelling place until we just come to know what we are to do next. When we are in the throes of trying to accommodate new insight it doesn’t feel like that will ever happen. But if we don’t jump too soon, if we wait and listen well, we will come to know. And then off we will go to prepare the way of the Lord.



Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

1 Comment
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Scott Arnold


Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café