Finding Our Wilderness

Sermon by the Rev. Lisa Smith Fry
Sunday, February 18, 2018

Mark 1:9-15

“And the Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”

Jesus was wrestling with weighty matters, so he went into the wilderness to think, and seek guidance.

It’s funny—for many years when I thought of a wilderness, I thought of a desert area. You know—scrubby grass and tumbleweeds. When I lived in Arizona, I thought—here it is! I’m living in the wilderness!

But a wilderness has less to do with what a place physically looks like, and more with the fact that – as the dictionary says—it’s an  uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region.

And I have no idea why I would think that a wilderness always looks like Arizona—when I grew up in a state with Baxter State Park—also a wilderness, but not at all like Arizona.

Is there a place you go when you want to think, to wrestle with something, when you need a little guidance?

I go to Lands End.

Now—to people outside this state, that seems to mean that I’m taking a journey to the OTHER outdoor goods retail store.

But I mean the spit of land at the end of Bailey’s Island in Harpswell. It’s my thinking spot. It’s the place I go to be really quiet, to listen to the waves, and to listen for the Spirit. When I can find the time to go there– I always leave more centered, more able to relax, more ME.

Perhaps Jesus was leading the way on this—and maybe we all need to find more time to be alone.

Alone time can look different for different people.

I have a friend that likes to fly fish. He says the rhythm of swinging the fishing pole and the line relaxes him.  He listens to the water and the wind in the trees and feels less stressed.  Instead of constantly having to plan ahead—in essence living in the future – he’s more in the present, where God is all around, tangibly.

I have another friend who walks the dogs late at night. She loves the feel of being under the stars in the dark. She’s a night owl. She wouldn’t trade that 20 minutes a day for anything. It gives her time to think, to listen—to just BE.

I know what you’re thinking— that sounds amazing!  I just wish I had time for that… I hear you. I AM you most of the time.

But don’t we all sometimes need to put aside the stress—and just stop for a while, listening for something other than our monkey brain that just keeps churning and churning?

Jesus felt that way too.

Don’t forget– he was now surrounded by followers—the 12 and also the people they met, and the hangers on, his relatives, and the friends they met along the way. All of them were looking to him for leadership, teaching, and encouragement.

Sounds like he was a little bit like a cross between being a parent, and being well—Oprah.


When we’re coming up on the end of our patience, the end of our ability to find answers to difficult questions, when we’re desperately trying to understand the reason for painful events in our own lives and the lives of others—and before we go off half-cocked – reacting—maybe we should take time and be alone for a bit.

I think Satan, which means “the temptor,” would always rather we react than reflect.

CS Lewis’ wrote a brilliant book called The Screwtape Letters. In it, uncle Screwtape: a senior demon, writes letters of advice to his fledgling demon nephew Wormwood.

Screwtape reminds his nephew:

“It is funny how mortals always picture [temptors] as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out. Get humans to react rather than reflect.”

I think that description could apply to a lot of us today.


I have a suggestion for us as we begin our Lenten disciplines. Maybe instead of giving something up, we could follow in Christ’s footsteps. Maybe this this Lent we can practice regular time apart from the busyness, the worry, the endless do-ing of our lives.

You could do it every couple of weeks, or every week or even daily if you really want to win the Lenten discipline contest.

Let’s find our own personal wildernesses, and regularly go there just listen. I think that the time quotient you spend there is less important that just giving yourself permission to go there. Regularly.

Listen to the wind, listen to the waves, listen to the birds or the trees or the stars. Just stop for a bit, and listen. No need to say a word. Just look.

And though you probably won’t see them, the angels will minister to you to.