Meditation: What Did You Go to the Wilderness to See
What did you go out to the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, more than a prophet. Matthew 11: 7-9
We go to the wilderness to seek comfort, a source of hope, new insights and how to respond to global wars and unspeakable suffering. Many feel helpless. Some retreat to the austere desert to limit distractions or the hills and mountains for a Birdseye view. Some instead search the pages of books and websites or go to hear a knowledgeable speaker. All seeking inspiration and direction.
The people of Jesus’ day did the same. They sought out a prophet in the wilderness who had strange ideas. They went looking for something different, something with life and hope. They came back from the vision quest angry and discouraged because their beliefs had been challenged. They had found what they were looking for.
Jesus asked if they were expecting a soft reed shaken by the wind? Did they expect to find a man who did not have strong views, who could be easily swayed by their questions and willing to concede to the old ways of the law? Did they really expect to find someone teaching what their priests taught? Did they go looking for a rich political leader who was well dressed and had all the social graces? He explained that they went to see a prophet, a strange man making strong statements, whose wisdom would result in peace. He explained that it was the same spirit of Elijah the prophet who listened for God in the wilderness years ago.
The strange furry locust -eater had the same spirit of one who isolated himself in the cave of depression. Elijah received the compassion of God. Curled up in the earth's womb, he found the courage to face the wind and the fire. Then, in that void, came the still small voice of God. Some had ears to hear and hearts to believe in Elijah John.
Some did not. He was dirty, dressed poorly, ate strange food and did not socialize. Perhaps he had a demon (or a mental illness) they reasoned. Some of these same people did not accept Jesus for just the opposite reasons. He ate fine food, drank wine and was a friend to liars and cheats. Jesus explained that these external characteristics are of no concern. He tells us, “wisdom is justified by her children.”, Or as he said in a different way, “ye shall know them by their fruit.”
Today many return from the wilderness discouraged because there is nothing there except some radical peace activists who say things contrary to the most preachers. They report on false teachings, on war atrocities, schemes, and tactics which the nightly news never mentions. It is confusing and upsetting. Some of them almost seem to have a mental illness. They preach peace yet they seem to cause people discord and distress by the their lament. Some of them go many days without eating and some are even dirty.
The spirit of Elijah John continues to roam the wild places of God’s kingdom. We are called back to our baptism by water, fire and wind so we can stand as Elijah in open mouthed caves and emerge again into the kingdom of heaven ruled by the Prince of Peace.
Prayer: I seek your wisdom in the wild places of my spirit where the reed, which is me, at sometimes sways. Help me to instead stand strong in the wind like the spirit of Elijah. Help me not seek the power of an earthly king or follow those on the wide road of destruction. Cleanse my soul to receive your words from any prophet; The child of war, the beggar, the refugee, and all of those who are not like me.
Action: Read the account of Elijah in I Kings 19:1-15 and the account of John the Baptist In Matthew 11. 7-19. Listen for the still small voice of direction and then -fear not...After all, What did you go to the wilderness to see?