40 in the Wilderness
There is a prominent faith community analyst, Gil Rendle, who suggests that a majority of mainline Christian denominations have been in the wilderness for about 40 years. He uses the wilderness metaphor in a similar way to how many people use it in their Lenten practices of fasting or alms giving for 40 days. There is something about a unit of 40 that has denoted a time set aside for an often disorienting and rigorous journey of spiritual
transformation. Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days of fasting before emerging as the empowered Christ. Siddhartha sat under the Bodhi tree for 40 days until he became the enlightened Buddha. The descendents of Hebrew slaves wondered in the wilderness for 40 years before becoming a settled nation during a time of exodus – a coming out of an old imprisoned reality.
Wilderness times are very important, yet few of us welcome them. This holds no less true for organized religion. Rendle writes:
“I suggest that in our dominant North American bias toward orderliness, we perhaps expect too much from an exodus. We expect that the trip can be scheduled on a clear time line, that leaders will know the right direction to walk every day, that faithfulness will not be challenged, and that everyone will willingly take the trip together without argument. Were such an orderly trip even possible, the fact remains that neat, tidy trips produce little learning and perhaps, in the end, no change.”
(Journey in The Wilderness)
In our early days, the founder of MCC, Rev. Elder Dr. Troy Perry, would lovingly say to public gatherings, “If you are tired of organized religion, come to MCC - we aren’t that organized!” What he meant by this was not that we were disorganized, he meant that we were a new inclusive expression of the Way of Christ that was learning to be open to the wilderness journey of being at the vanguard of a sea of change in religions and spiritualities.
And this continues to be the call to all questers in the wilderness, “Come as you are; believing as you do; and your world will be renewed in ways you could not previously imagine.”
Glad you’re there,