Voice in the Wilderness

This is a sermon I shared with Holy Way Presbyterian Church in Tucson a couple of weeks ago. I’ve gonna remove some of it (mainly the intro cuz y’all already know what I am).

The two passages we were preaching from were Mark 2:1-15 and Ephesians 2:11-22.

I was born and raised in South Carolina, which is just a tad bit different from the U.S.-Mexico border. For me, our verse in Ephesians is perfect for the work Frontera de Cristo does. I can easily see why it was chosen for the Presbyterian Border Ministries and how it is still so relevant today. I could probably speak for hours about this passage in regards to border ministry. I’m sure I could find metaphors and connections to life on the border in every verse and discuss how our border wall is un-Christlike. But I’m not going to do that, mainly because I don’t have that kind of time. But also because I like the wilderness, and our Mark passage speaks a lot about the wilderness. Back home in South Carolina, going out into the woods was a type of meditation for me. If I was stressed out or needed time to figure things out, I would head out into the wilderness. I would spend hours walking, listening to wind in the trees and getting lost in my thoughts. It was good for me. Then, when I came to Arizona/Sonora, I arrived in a completely different kind of wilderness. Gone were the expansive forests and babbling brooks. Gone were the Appalachian Mountains I knew so well.  All of that had been replaced by thorny scrub brush, wide open deserts, and jagged mountains that seem to come out of nowhere.

Not only was the natural wilderness so different, but so was the society I had come to. I had come to a place where society had decided to build a wall to keep people away. A society that treated people differently due to their place of birth. A society that purposefully pushed people further and further away from civilization in hopes of using the risk of death as a deterrent. This place was just as foreign and wild to me as the new wilderness I saw out my window.

When Mark tells us of John the Baptist appearing in the wilderness, I imagine him coming into a situation like this. I can see him being sent into the wilderness of Judea, where there is fear, hate, discrimination, and unnecessary death. With his voice, John is calling out to the people, trying to educate them and show that there is something better for them. He is there to make straight paths for the Lord. John literally wants to straighten the people out!

I like to think of Frontera de Cristo like the messenger being sent ahead. We are calling out to our brothers and sisters, trying to prepare them for a new way that is coming. Thankfully we do not wear clothes made of camel’s hair or eat locusts and wild honey. But like John the Baptist, we are in the wilderness calling out to our people. We are trying to prepare them for what is to come and show them that we have done wrong. Our hope is to prepare our communities so that they may follow us in our work and help to make something better.

I also find it interesting that Jesus himself was sent out into the wilderness by the spirit. It helps me feel a new level of connection to Jesus, because I too feel that the spirit sent me out into the wilderness. Granted, our types of wilderness are different. I, thankfully, have had limited interactions with wild animals. However, I believe our time in the wilderness has some similarities. Like Jesus, I have been tested during my time as a YAV. I have been pushed to my limits and challenged on many things I think and believe. LIke Jesus, I had the chance to throw in the towel, to give up and take the easy way out. But He did not and neither have I. If anything, these challenges have only strengthened my resolve and given me clarity in God’s call for me. Like I have been in the wilderness calling to others, God has been calling out to me. I know that God has been working in me and preparing me for what comes next. I am still unsure as to what will happen after my YAV year. Who knows what type of wilderness the Spirit might send me to next. While this unknown frightens me a bit, two things help me through it. One is knowing that God has a plan for me and will be with me every step of the way. The other is that Jesus is coming after me, and He is more powerful than I. Because of him, the kingdom of God has come near to us. And that is very good news.

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