What a delightful Advent and Christmas season we have just come through at the First Reformed Church of South River! It was delightful to open our church to members of the community for carol singing, to join with the Manna Café guests as we gathered for a Christmas movie in our sanctuary, and to see faces we don’t get to see throughout the year in our Christmas Eve and Christmas morning services.
As we bask in the light of Epiphany, we begin to turn our attention toward Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. In this time of Lent we will be focusing on the theme of “Wilderness”. Wilderness experiences are a part of our inheritance as Christians. The Hebrew people wandered in the wilderness for 40 years after escaping slavery in Egypt. After his baptism, Christ spent 40 days in the wilderness preparing for the start of his ministry.
Often we hear "wilderness" spoken of in hushed tones, with a sense of fear and foreboding. We are warned away from the wilderness, and told to avoid it at all costs. But the fact is, many of those things which we find strange or uncomfortable are not always malicious--in fact, they are often the exact places where God works. God calls us to the wilderness to use our discomfort to stretch us, challenge us, and equip us to more completely reflect God. The number of Biblical texts that point us towards the wilderness helps us remember that we are not failures when we wander into wilderness spaces. Rather, we are children, held in God's hand, brought to the wilderness to encounter the Spirit in ways we could never have imagined. We are led to the wilderness to let go of the sense of self we cling to so fiercely, and to be re-formed into more vibrant disciples. I look forward to discovering what the wilderness has in store for us this Lent.
Grace upon grace,
Pastor Colleen Toole