This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said,
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’”
While in seminary, I was taught to look at the scriptures in different ways, for example, this passage could be interpreted as saying: “I am the voice of one crying: ‘out in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord‘…”
Just moving the comma give us a new perspective on the Gospel, rather pointing to John as the one who is ‘crying out in the wilderness‘; our focus is moved to making straight the way of the Lord IN the wilderness: the wild places in our world, which is exactly where the Lord is needed the most!
Years ago, when our pastor was new to the church, he wanted to visit everyone in their homes as a way of getting to know us all as well as he could. I thought this was a great idea, until he asked when he could come and visit my house! At the time my daughter and I lived in a tiny apartment, and as I was a full time single father, and a full time office worker, there was little time to clean, and I was embarrassed to have the pastor see my home; so I declined his offer.
Today, after having known him for many years, and counting him as a friend, I realize that it would not have mattered to him one bit that my house had some dirty dishes in the sink, needed a good vacuuming, and had toys and papers scattered all over the house, he wanted to visit with myself and my daughter as a way of introduction, and all I needed to do to get ready was to offer him a welcome (and wash a few dishes).
So it is with Christ…who does not expect our lives to be neat and tidy, without sin or corruption; in fact, we could argue that it is because of the sometimes messy state of our lives that Christ is so needed in our world!
No, Christ does not expect our lives to be in order…but who only asks for a welcome in the midst of the wilderness of our lives, as he does not come with judgment but with forgiveness, grace and love that has no conditions.
As single parents, our lives CAN be messy and chaotic, and can sometimes seem to be wild places filled with challenges and adventure! Often, we never know what to expect next, and plans we make are always subject to change, as we have had to learn how to think on our feet, making decisions at a moment’s notice, and then having to live with the results.
This is not to say that life as a single parent is always a struggle to be endured…because it is not, it can be filled with great joy, and the opportunity to bond with our children that we never would have had otherwise. This experience can also test and strengthen our faith in God, and build up our relationships with loved ones, who can act as Christ for us…when they speak as the voice of wisdom or restraint, or when they reach out to help us through a tough time.
Both directly and through the voices of others, God is always with us even in the midst of our own ‘wilderness’, offering us support and compassion, and giving us the tools and strength we need to managed our lives and make it a little less messy; and in turn, we are called to make the presence of Christ known to others, who may be lost in their own ‘wilderness’, such as our children, friends, family, and even strangers by sharing the good news of God’s love with all who need to hear it, and thus, making straight the way of the Lord, and shining the light of the Gospel into all of the dark places in the lives of others, and in our world.
For it is by coming together, to share our joys and our struggles in the midst of our sometimes ‘messy lives, that our faith grows, and as our faith grows, we are empowered to bring the healing power of God’s love into the world; love which can calm the wilderness, help to make sense of the mess, and bring us all peace and hope; which moves us ever closer to making God‘s Kingdom a reality here in the midst of our ‘wilderness‘.
Let us Pray
God, thank you for meeting us right where we are…in the midst of our lives…even when they become a bit messy. Thank you for speaking to us directly, through the gospels, and through others: family, friends, pastors, and strangers. Help us to heed your wisdom, and then to share what we have learned with others who may also feel trapped in the midst of their own wild places…letting them know that there is peace and hope in your love.