Miracles in the Wilderness Rev Dr Durrell Watkins Lent 4 I grew up in a religious wilderness. My family was a terrifying mixture of Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics with a sprinkling of United Methodists. The Catholics and Methodists didn’t take it too seriously, but the Baptists were high octane, turbo charged Baptists, and that […]
Miracles in the Wilderness
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
I grew up in a religious wilderness.
My family was a terrifying mixture of Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics with a sprinkling of United Methodists. The Catholics and Methodists didn’t take it too seriously, but the Baptists were high octane, turbo charged Baptists, and that didn’t really work for me.
All of them seemed to think of religion as fire insurance. They used it as a lucky charm when things were rough, but didn’t seem too let down if the magic didn’t work, but they totally depended on religion to get them into the afterlife cosmic country club. And part of the premium for the afterlife fire insurance was knowing who to be against. I, as it turned out, was one of the people good Christians were supposed to be against. So I kept moving through that wilderness, looking for a land of promise, a better place to be.
I dabbled in the Charismatic movement, chasimaniacs we light-heartedly called ourselves. Then about midway through college I discovered the Episcopal church, and loved it. It was like Catholic with women priests, no mention of hell, lots of pro-choice and semi-out gay people. It seemed perfect, at first. But eventually, even that was not liberating enough…for me.
I explored Wicca and Buddhism, Unity and Religious Science, and finally found MCC. Each had something wonderful to offer. None of them were quite enough by themselves.
Even after joining MCC I flirted with the Unitarian Universalists and became involved with the Divine Scientists. Each of these stops on my journey left a mark on me, and helped me become who I am. But eventually, I learned that like so many in our culture now, denominationalism doesn’t offer much to me.
In seminary I had Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Jewish, Presbyterian, Methodist, United Church of Christ, Buddhist, and Lutheran professors, and there was an even more diverse student body. That seemed perfect! And it showed me that spiritual community could be trans-denominational and post-denominational. Spiritual seekers can gather together and worship together and work together and play together without saying a creed or being afraid of a bishop or telling people they aren’t welcome at the table because they haven’t joined the club. It was a vision for me of what church could be, and ought to be.
I found miracles in the wilderness and today I am the pastor of a different kind of church, where I hope more people can find miracles in their own wilderness experiences.
In the bible, Hagar found a miracle in the wilderness. In her moment of despair, she change her perspective, and found a well to sustain her in her time of trouble.
Elijah found a miracle in the wilderness. Hiding from political authorities, afraid for his life, ravens came to Elijah in the wilderness. The ravens brought him food.
Moses led people out of slavery into a wilderness, looking for a better life. Along the way manna and quail and water in rocks sustained them. The wilderness was rough, but they found miracles in the wilderness.
Children who were abused, or neglected, or who suffered some extreme trauma, often struggle with depression later in life. Some people struggle with depression because of a chemical imbalance, an inherited trait that other relatives also had. Some people suffer from depression and they never know why.
There are support groups, and medications, and therapists that can help.
Depression is a wilderness, but there are miracles in the wilderness.
I sometimes joke about my own experiences of depression, though in the past, the struggle was anything but funny. Healing took time, effort, and more than one relapse. But I got through it. I’m not saying I never have a bad day, but I don’t expect them, and when they happen, I do expect them to pass and be replaced by better days. I have discovered and learned to depend on the truth that the past is past and the future has infinite possibilities.
You may be in the wilderness, but there are wells in the wilderness. You may alone and scared, but ravens are on the way. You may be struggling, but a breakthrough could be at hand.
That’s the simple but I hope empowering message for you today from the book of Isaiah: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness…” (Isaiah 43)
Winston Churchill famously said, “If you’re going through hell, KEEP GOING.”
If you are in the wilderness, keep going. There is a way out, and until you find it, there are miracles in the wilderness. And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2016
Let there be miracles in the wilderness!
Hope will always sustain me.
I expect and accept blessings.
And so it is.