First Sunday of Lent Reflection
by Amy Cantrell
18 So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. (Exodus 13:18, NKJV)
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. (Luke 4:1, NRSV)
I have been talking a lot lately about our need for un-tamed spaces, un-domesticated geography and what I mean is that we need the wilds. Biblically speaking, this is wilderness.
Lent as a season is meant to take us back to the wilderness as we walk the road of preparation with Jesus--preparation for ministry that is deeply counter-cultural as it announces “good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and proclaims the Jubilee.” (Luke 4:18,19) Capital One, Corrections Corporation of America, 1%-ers, empires everywhere, and you and me should expect the order of the day to be turned upside down. Lent also calls us to walk the road to the cross where political, economic, and religious powers collude to keep death systems (that create more wealth and power for a few) in place and where the un-tamed are crucified only to find resurrection life.
In this day and hour, we desperately need wilderness. As the #NoDAPL water
protectors have taught us, water is life, the Biblical record reminds us that wilderness is breath! We literally cannot breathe without the wilds. And we cannot know God’s way (God’s politics, economics and spirituality) outside of the inspiration (literally to “breathe in”) of the wilderness.
Theologian Ched Myers writes: “Jesus seems to have spent most of his ministry and prayer life in the wild places that set our inner demons buzzing and call us into Holy Spirit-led transformation and wholeness.”
Freed Hebrew slaves went to the wilderness to be instructed and to learn to practice a new way of life beyond empire or as we call it at BeLoved Asheville, Pharoah’s pyramid schemes.
Many of the people we live and walk with are homeless and they camp in the woods. These folks daily remind us of the power to trust the Holy One and depend on the wilds for protection.
We live in a time where everywhere we turn, these wilderness places, these un-tamed spaces are threatened. What do we do when wilderness spaces are threatened?
When science is undermined, climate change and the news are deemed fake, and the lands are under attack, rangers of the National Park service speak up and other officials join them.
When tribal lands and waterways are threatened, tribes come together to speak in unison about the sacredness of the water and our very humanity as we are all made up mostly of water.
When communities in the wilderness who are perceived as “foreigners” in a land they have long called home are threatened by ICE raids, these beautiful people are defending their communities and standing up for peoples’ right to be here and to thrive.
When we have forgotten how to practice the wilderness way of Jesus, wilderness communities like BeLoved Asheville are emerging where we learn to trust Gods’ manna, cross boundary lines to work together for liberation, and live out the radical hospitality and sharing that are the great lessons of wilderness.
How will you enter into this wilderness season? How will you learn to trust and practice liberation? Will you trade the fleshpots of capitalism and privilege? Will you remember the wilderness way and resist? Will you declare your church an un-domesticated space, a sanctuary? Will you opt out of empire and live into the new wilderness community? Will you accept Jesus’ invitation to follow into wild-ness?
Prayer: Un-tamed Jesus, help us to meet the temptations to be civilized when we need to be wild. Help us to follow you and the freed Hebrew slaves, and all who have walked the wilderness way in this season. Teach us to truly be liberated and liberating people! Amen.
Rev. Amy Cantrell lives and moves and has her being in the intentional community, BeLoved Asheville. BeLoved is a community of people from the streets and margins who conspire to do justice and end oppression including homelessness, poverty, and racism by doing the works of love and mercy. Amy lives with her partner; twin daughters; fuzzy rescue dog, Klondyke; and six community members in Asheville, NC. She is a pastor in the Presbyterian Church, USA, was school educated at Columbia Theological Seminary and was street educated on Ponce de Leon Ave. in Atlanta at the Open Door Community and on Grove Street at BeLoved Asheville. She plays guitar, loves the color purple and following the wildly loving and radical Jesus. She was most recently arrested calling for a NC that shows compassion to the vulnerable at Moral Monday 7 with NAACP NC Moral Monday Movement and spoke as a moral witness at Moral Monday 13.