For my devotion today, I decided to go back to one of my favorite scripture passages I would use when I was an Army chaplain, especially when I was with a unit that was preparing for a deployment. It is a brief passage, but one that I have been thinking a lot about in this summer of COVID. It is a passage about the preparation that is needed before we are ready for our mission.
The passage is Mark 1:12-13, which covers the time that Jesus takes to prepare Himself in the wilderness before the start of His public ministry. Jesus had just been baptized, and then 12-13 follow: “Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.”
Mark certainly has an economy of words. These two short verses represent an intense time of training and preparation for Jesus as gets ready for His worldly mission. Other Gospels reference and expand on the temptation from Satan, but very little is said about what else is happening during these 40 days. It was a time of intense preparation, of prayer, and of total dependence on the angels to minister to Jesus for his physical needs. When Jesus was done with his 40 days, the next verse moves right on to the next stage of his ministry, proclaiming the Gospel in Galilee.
I can only imagine what that 40 days was like for Jesus. There would be times of thinking back to what His life was like before, perhaps longing to escape that time of preparation and return the comforts of before. Or perhaps he thought often of what was to come in the years ahead, of considering the various paths that would lead to the cross.
The time in the wilderness can look different for different people. Jesus needed this time to get ready for His public ministry of the next three years. I have spent some time wondering what this time in the wilderness will look like for Central. This time of COVID has been tough for all of us, a time of prayer and a time to depend upon the Lord and His angels for our provision. The question in my mind has been what is “Verse 14” going to look like at Central. This wilderness of COVID will not last forever, and the time will come when a new ministry will rise out of Central.
We should not sit idly and long for a return of previous comforts. That is not an option. We should also not sit frozen as we consider the infinite amount of paths that are currently in front of us. We can prepare the best we can for the specific path that the Lord is preparing for us. In fact, we are starting that work even now. We worship on Sundays, we have a time of prayer on Thursdays, our youth ministry is full go summer on Wednesday nights, and we have re-started Celebrate Recovery on Monday evenings. This time in the wilderness is not a time of doing nothing, but it is a time of regrouping and preparing for the next proclamation of the Gospel.
I personally am very much looking forward to what the next season at Central will bring. I have no doubt that the Lord is taking this time to prepare us and prepare the church for what He has in store. Over the next several weeks we will be providing some options on how you can all best connect to where the Lord is leading Central. God is working here, preparing us, and paving the way us to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God in our very own Galilee here in St. Paul.