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In the Wilderness: Promise of New Life

March 21, 2020
The Tundra on a hike on the Upper Ute Trail in the Rocky Mountain National Park in June of 2016.

The first time we went hiking on the Upper Ute Trail in the Rocky Mountain National Park, there was still some snow on the ground and the wind was cold with strong gusts. When you are hiking above the timberline, it is amazing what can still grow in such harsh conditions. These wildflowers were a reminder to us that even in harsh conditions new life blooms every Spring.

The last time we had seen such windswept, rough, and rugged country with plants blooming in the most unusual places was when we were on our honeymoon and encountered the Burren in County Clare, Ireland. There too we were amazed at how life can hang on in such harsh conditions.

Wildflowers on the Burren in County Clare, Ireland.
The rough coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. It was incredibly windy the day were were there.

Even in such harsh conditions, the life of wee flowering plants reminds me that there is always hope blooming in the wilderness, you just have to look for it.

In these days when people are sheltering in place, practicing safe distance from each other, and churches are figuring out how to do virtual worship and/or meetings and fellowship it can feel like a wilderness. When there isn’t a choir or an organ or music leaders it can sometimes seem unsettling. Yet in the midst of this wilderness journey, many are coming to the realization that the church is not the building or the music or the pews. The church has always been about the people who seek to follow Christ. The earliest places of worship after the followers of the Way (followers of Jesus) were kicked out in places like Rome, they worshiped in the catacombs… yes, they worshiped in underground burial “cities” which were quite large.

In Oxford, England I remember visiting one of the Oxford University Colleges and seeing the crypt beneath the College Churches where worship was held in a clandestine manner when their particular faith community (Roman Catholic or Church of England) was forced into hiding because of persecutions.

On a less dramatic scale, when I was deployed with the Air Force I held worship in Dining Tents, Storage Tents, and Plywood Buildings. The situation was different, yet the community of faith, the body of Christ was still very much present. Some of my best memories of worship in the Air Force were in those makeshift chapels.

The psalmist in the 23rd Psalm writes about God leading the flock through the valley of the shadows, alongside still waters, and in green pastures. Even in the darkest valleys of the shadow of death, God was with the flock. That is how I find hope in the wilderness. That is how I see new life breaking forth just as the Spring flowers break through the snow and burst forth in wonderful colors.

Dear reader, we are indeed in a different sort of wilderness thanks to COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus. Worship is different, gathering in community is different, social isolation is a reality. Yet even in the midst of this wilderness, there is a promise of new life. Just as Jesus offered hope and a promise to the man born blind… a hope offered despite the cruel musings of the crowd… so Jesus, like the Good Shepherd in the 23rd Psalm offers us light and hope in the wilderness.

I see evidence of this hope and new life everywhere I look. Neighbors helping neighbors, friends helping friends, people helping complete strangers. Sadly this is not the sort of news that the Media outlets share. There is hope in the Wilderness and we have a Savior who will guide us through the times of darkness and teach us that Church is about relationships with God and with one another.

  1. Miss B permalink

    Love this. I think your closing thought needs a quick edit for effectiveness though. “Sadly this is not the sort of news that the Media outlets fail to share.”

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