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Let all the earth cry out to God with joy

by davesandel on April 22nd, 2021

Thursday, April 22, 2021                   (today’s lectionary)

Let all the earth cry out to God with joy

Get up and head south on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.

It’s springtime, and rain brings up the wildflowers. Thousands bloom in every square yard of desert sand. They sparkle and refresh my eyes for a day, and then the night comes, and the next day, and they are gone. I walk on.

What draws me to the desert, if not its silent strength that speaks only of God? The Desert Fathers, writes Thomas Merton, believed that “the wilderness has been created as supremely valuable in the eyes of God precisely because it has no value to men. The wasteland was the land that could never be wasted by men because it offered them nothing. There was nothing to attract them. There was nothing to exploit.”

An Ethiopian eunuch was returning home to his queen. Seated in his chariot, he read Isaiah. “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and as a lamb before his shearer is silent, so he opened not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who will tell of his posterity? For his life is taken from the earth.”

Philip explained that this was a prophetic passage about Jesus. He went to explain Jesus’ resurrection. In the desert sand the eunuch suddenly said, “Look there is water!” And so Philip baptized the eunuch then and there, before “the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away.”

The desert was created simply to be itself, not to be transformed by men into something else. It is therefore the logical dwelling place for the man who seeks to be nothing but himself, a creature solitary and poor and dependent upon no one but God, with no Great Project standing between himself and his Creator.

Merton continues, “That is, at least, the theory.” Because thirst can drive men mad in the desert, and as Jesus discovered, the desert is the refuge of the devil. “So the man who wanders into the desert to be himself must take care that he does not go mad and become the servant of the one who dwells there in a sterile paradise of emptiness and rage” (Merton, Thoughts in Solitude).

Passing through the days of my 71st year, I keep leaving the comfortable boulevards of America to explore dark alleys. Are they safe? Why do they fascinate me? When I was deep in the west Texas desert and night fell, I felt afraid. I wanted to turn on the lights. I felt like a coward.

I did not turn on the lights. I prayed and confessed my fear.

Bless our God, who has given life to our souls and not let our feet slip. Blessed be God who refused me not my prayer nor his kindness.

Marc is coming next week for a visit. We want to enjoy with him the beautiful weather, the great restaurants, the joy of family together, the laughter and explosive joy of Miles and Jasper. All of this is cushioned a bit by our covid precautions. Our anticipation is tempered by that, but we will find great ways to enjoy being together. We are God’s kids and always will be.

Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father draws him. Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.

In Texas the search never ends for the best homemade tortillas. The search often passes through desert country, where parched corn is harvested, ground, rolled and baked. This search is not complicated, it is not some Great Project. The words of Jesus pass overhead, pass through our conversations, through my mind, reminding me that I don’t live by bread alone. Jesus told the devil off that day, deep in the desert, choosing not to eat but to pray. In this way, he earned the right to be heard:

I am the bread of life. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.

(Acts 8, Psalm 66, John 6)

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