August 30, 2021
The Book of Isaiah chapter 40: 3-5 reads
“A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
As Wesley Theological Seminary launches a new school year in the midst of a pandemic, racial inequality, and natural and human caused disasters, it feels like we are in the wilderness. I can certainly relate to the feeling of the Israelites who left the bondage in Egypt following Moses through the wilderness to the Promise Land.
And yet in the midst of this wilderness, our faculty and students pick up the books and study. On the surface this could seem like a selfish and frivolous task, to read and write when there is so much wrong with our world. And yet we study with the hope of building a better tomorrow. God promises to the Israelites is to reach a place that they cannot yet see. They walked together with the pillar of cloud and fire (Shekinah) that offered shade in the day and warm and light at night.
Similarly, we journey together and study in preparation for what is to come. Studying is a deep act of hope and faith. It is preparation for the Reign of God that is not yet manifested in all of its fullness. Verse five states that “…the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” While we can’t yet see the Promise Land in all of its glory, we study and work as an act of faith that God will be faithful.
The wilderness is not easy place to be in. It is a liminal space between where we have been and where we are going. There is uncertainty as to whether or not we will arrive. The journey is long and hard. The desert is hot in the day and cold at night. Of course, we would rather be at our destination, but we cannot turn back. Our only path is forward. And yet we set out on faith through the unknown to an unseen place.
We open our hearts and minds this fall to drink deeply from the wellspring of our tradition. This is food for the journey. This is the toolbox that we will need to build the Kin-dom of God. As we set out this fall as a learning community on this journey through the wilderness, let us recall the prophet Isaiah’s promise that “the glory of the Lord will be revealed and that all people shall see it together.”
— Dean Philip Wingeier-Rayo