It was dark. I found myself in the middle of an industrial complex that seemed entirely vacant, with not a car or living being in sight. The gas gauge of the rental car suggested I was almost out of gas. After passing exit after exit with no promise of a gas station, my not-so-great GPS had led me to this area, and as I drove further and further away from the highway, still no gas station appeared. With my two-year-old asleep in the back seat, I felt vulnerable and alone.
The wilderness can be found as easily in the midst of a city as in the most secluded place on earth. It is as much a mental or spiritual feeling of loneliness, isolation, and vulnerability as it is a physical location.
Normally we do everything we can to avoid the wilderness, but during Lent we are invited to journey into the wilderness. It is in that place of solitude and vulnerability that we often find ourselves most open to God. It is in the wilderness that important truths about life and death come into sharper focus. Few of us deliberately seek out the wilderness, though we all go through times of spiritual drought, thirst, and great need. But Scripture and our own experience testify to the fact that in these places God often shows up in profound and surprising ways.
In this Lenten issue you will find “A Table in the Wilderness” (p. 3), a worship series through which you can invite your congregation to take a journey in the wilderness, stopping along the way to hear the testimonies of Jesus, the people of Israel, Hagar, Elijah, David, the hungry crowd, and the disciples, learning how God fed and ministered to them in their wildernesses. Connected with the worship series are resources for setting up an outdoor prayer path (p. 12). Another way to highlight the table provisions of God is through weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper (“Eating More Grace,” p. 16). There are more traditional Lenten resources in this issue as well, including services for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. For Easter we have provided a litany that uses Psalm 118 interspersed with several other Scripture texts to tell the good news of Easter.
We continue our recent focus on children and youth with two insightful articles that speak more about older youth and young adults. These two articles appear in reverse order change text to read: The first article, “God Juice and Sticky Faith” (p. 44) reflects on how the faith of young adults is affected by how they participated in worship as children. The second article outlines how different generations speak about sin (“Sin Talk,” p. 47). We also have included another letter, this time addressed to the storytellers in our churches—including preachers (p. 42). Finally, we are grateful for the opportunity to share with you some artwork created by children.
Of course, all our worship is meaningless and our creative expressions pointless if we don’t keep God at the center of our worship. “Behold God’s Power and Glory” (p. 40) provides some wisdom for doing exactly that.
In case you are wondering, God answered my prayers. I made it back to the highway and eventually did find a gas station—a very different table in the wilderness, but a provision no less.