A wilderness and not a wasteland.
Year B - Proper 23
I have not travelled extensively in the U.S. One of my memorable trips there was to visit cousins in New Mexico - Albuquerque mostly - with a couple of side trips to Santa Fe, Roswell (of course!) and chunks of the Chihuahuan desert. I confess that the first few days were spent wondering, frankly, what the point of the place was. The usual indicators of beauty were, for me, lush vegetation and abundant water. There was none of that there. I suffered from a delay of several days before desert colours started to jump out and desert creatures began to be noticed. The spirit of the place, its beauty and its order, only made their impression once I had divested myself of my expectations and prejudices.
The painted mountains of the Bosque del Apache took some time to sink in. Flecks of life and colour drew attention to themselves because they were not swamped by the monochrome green of a west coast rain forest. They maintained their tenacious hold not only on the desert floor but also on the consciousness of this observer who had learned to look out for them only when he had left something else behind.
More sharp and unequivocal words from Jesus in this week’s Gospel reading: We must divest ourselves of those things which obstruct and prevent our entry into the Kingdom of God. We are asked to divest ourselves of what stands “instead of” God’s Kingdom. This will include the things we have built for ourselves and earned for ourselves and padded ourselves with.
When we have ceased to rely on the well-worn path and left behind the familiar things we will find that we have entered a landscape not of our own making. It is no wasteland. It contains people, challenges and adventures. We are not alone there.
We have brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. We have work to do.