Finding Christ in the Wilderness
This weekend I am preparing for turning another year older and diocesan convention by going out into the wilderness with Henri. We are heading up to see aspen leaves and sleep in the cold.
Years ago I went up to camp in Flagstaff and froze all night, being totally unprepared for the cold night. My sleeping bag was okay, but the tent was covered in ice. I got up and did not have cold weather clothing except for a ubiquitous little fleece watch cap. So I wore my sleeping bag while I made my way outside to make coffee.
I’d heard heavy footsteps all night but thought that I was either dreaming or imagining sounds. I was wrong.
When my groggy head came out of the zipper door of my tent, I was met by a herd of elk grazing. All of them grazing east toward the rising sun, quiet and still in that misty light of early morning.
I compared it for years to being a tourist in Tehran when the market fell to its knees for the call to prayer from some invisible minaret. I was the one out of place.
Now I know that moment differently. The world is made in wisdom, “by Wisdom,” in the language of the Hebrew Scriptures, our Old Testament. Wisdom is the right hand of God; she is the architect of creation, and she is knowable if you study her ways in the Bible and in Creation.
God is present in ways that you can miss in your everyday life, but you cannot ignore God in the early morning herd of elk. God made us to be his image in Creation, see Genesis one and two. He placed us in the Garden and in the world to care for what he had made in wisdom.
In order to be like God’s image in the world, his ambassador or representative, you have to know his ways. When Jesus wanted to commune with God, he went to the mountains or the wilderness. His Wisdom may have been born in, but for us we have to study. We disciple ourselves to Jesus as the Way, but we can also do what he did.
We can go to the wilderness and pay attention. All around you God is at work; creation is an ongoing act. Stop and pay attention.
Especially in moments when you, like Christ, know that some moment is coming when you will need God’s guidance and wisdom, do what Christ did. Go to the mountain and pray.
I will see you out there.
The Rev. Daniel P. Richards
Christ Church of the Ascension
Paradise Valley, Arizona