Landscapes of Faith: the Desert

Text: Duet 32: 7 – 15

I was debating between the landscape of the desert or that of a pasture. I was torn between the land I came from and the land that my family originated. One land that is misunderstood as God-forsaken and one that embodies rest and restoration.

On Ash Wednesday, I preached about Lent as a time to reflect, to repent, to reconcile your relationship with God, and to be restored such as lambs to pasture. Lent, however, is also a time to journey into the wilderness and reflect on the perceived distance, and perhaps estranged relationship, between ourselves and the divine presence of God. And besides, I am a desert rat!

I confess that I love the warm (ok, hot), dry weather! I love the breathtaking desert landscape with the mountains standing guard in the distance! And do not get me started on an Arizona Sunset.

Yet, there are a number of people that perceive Arizona and its desert as a God-forsaken wilderness, where humans and animals are lucky to merely survive.

My immediate family moved to Arizona in 1983, because of the economy. My biological father’s Indiana family was concerned with a mental image of Arizona as literally a single, extremely large sand (dunes) box. My mother’s Indiana family was not concerned, but remained puzzled as to why my mother has continued to live in Arizona for over 30 years.

March 2012, my aunt Kathy flew into Arizona (for the first time) to attend my wedding. She was only there for the wedding weekend and returned to Indiana still puzzled about why we continue to live in the Arizona desert.

We convinced her to return in October 2013. During that week, we were my aunt Kathy and uncle Mike’s tour guides through Arizona from Williams near the Grand Canyon to Tombstone in the south. Although they saw the Mogollon Rim, they mostly took in the sight of the desert, the canyons, and their lakes. They were amazed at the amount of undeveloped wilderness, where we could camp, fish, and ride our ATVs. They were also amazed at the natural beauty that seemed virtually untouched by human hands. Admittedly, my aunt Kathy will NEVER be a desert rat. She did, however come to appreciate the desert and understood how us outdoor types could grow attached to it.

My aunt Kathy and numerous others are not the only ones that paint the desert as a barren, God-forsaken land. The Scriptures paint a similar picture. In fact, listen to these verses again (vv. 10-14). This passage is less about honoring the desert and more about praising a God that sustains, cares for, and provides for his people, even in the barren desert, a howling wasteland.

The Triune God continues to love, sustain, care for, and provide for all of his creation, even in the most barren, or seemingly God-forsaken, landscapes that we may encounter, whether literally or figuratively. It is in this seemingly isolated wilderness that we learn to trust, even lean on, God. So, I encourage each of us, instead of dismissing the deserts of our life as undesired, barren wilderness, to embrace it has evidence of God’s continued active presence and take in all of its true beauty.

*Preached on Wednesday March 25, 2015

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