The message of John, you know I wonder exactly what that message was. To get people to flock to see you, not downtown, but out in the wilderness he had to have some message. No, I don't think people will flock to hear repent, just look at what we do when we hear that message. Prepare the way of the Lord, now this one gets my attention, what about you? If John took that message what might it have sounded like? Maybe it went something like this.
In the back woods of Maine, yes there is a back woods, it's the place real Mainers flock to to get away from the out of statahs during summer. Well, in the back woods my dad was always teaching us to be prepared. Be prepared to be lost. See John's audience is lost. Roman rule has happened and the temple priests are in the pocket of the state. Repent, cause right now your lost. Aren't we all lost at times? Don't we all need to be reminded to be prepared for the time when we get spiritually lost? Yet we don't send out those messages, no, we send out the ones where we are sure of everything, we know God and Jesus and we know God's mind, or rules. Yet we still have times of being lost and we tell people they shouldn't be. We forget to prepare them for being lost, to find within themselves those markers which might help us get back on track and expect we are sometimes lost in God's wilderness.
First rule, if you get lost know your landmarks, if you can't distinguish one tree from the next mark it. This rule was to avoid walking in circles. We can come back to places inside ourselves again and again. Think about it. How many times have we come back to some mistake we've made qnd revisit our guilt and pain over it. Do we bother to mark the trail knowing we've already made this journey, or do we mark it and leave it to God. There are so many circles we can make, falling into the routines of prayer, of scripture study and nothing new comes along. But we hold onto the path thinking if I travel this way a bit further I might get out of the circle I've made. Stop. Mark it pick up something new, react in a new way, pray a new prayer. Stop circling, let it go and find the new path. Only in this way may you find yourself out of the woods.
Second rule, if you get lost find the river and follow it downstream, you will find a town and people. How many times have we fought against the current. I don't mean the most poplular trend. How many times in our spiritual life do we believe the only way to move forward on an issue is to push on through. I need to disagree with everything because this is how it's always been done. Or I have to do things the hard way because I'll learn more. We may not say these things aloud, yet we can find some truth in them. When we went to summer camp we always loved to hear from Micah about his latest protest he'd been involved in. One summer after the kids were asleep and the other adult agreed to be with them, we'd meet on the back porch. Micah began, he explained how he had learned something about himself, always chasing after the next thing to be against. This wasn't important anymore. What was, was being true to living it in his life. He had always chased after these protests as a way to avoid living more deeply. If I can touch the lives of the people around me I'm making more of a difference.
Lastly, if you find you are really lost leave the markers, break branches, leave signs of your trail and know what to eat from the forest. Just recently the body of a woman was found on the Appalachian trail. They found she had starved to death, lost only a short distance from the trail. She had walked in circles for months, just missing the trailhead and didn't know the forest to know what to eat. Food all around her, if she had ever gotten to know it. Sometimes in our spiritual journey we take off on our own. We're doing ok. We don't need any prayer life, any scripture reading, any time to be with God, we've got it covered. Then life happens and we are lost and hungry, except we expect still not to look for the bread of life, we expect God to supply it. Like some magician, all that we've taken care of not to cultivate shouldn't be our problem. We don't look for things which can feed and sustain us. A drop of some routine, a time to communune and talk with God. A time to be honest about all our pain, anger, or disappointment, and even our joy just might break into bread which can sustain us.
The rules of being lost. There is so much to gain if we dare to work at this relationship we have with God. How will you prepare the way of the Lord?