St. Augustine of Hippo

Episcopal Church


“Out of the Nest and Into the Wilderness”


The Rev. Robin Newman, Deacon

(Mark 1:9-15)

February 21, 2021

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my God and my Redeemer. Amen.

What was it like for you when you left the nest? When you moved away from home? Did your parents nudge you out of the nest? Or did you leave of your own accord, yearning to be free and independent? Were you excited? Afraid? Were you hoping for an adventure in uncharted territory? Or were you sure of what the future would be like? Did you step out with fear and trepidation into a great unknown?

In today's Gospel, " Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee", the village of his youth, the place where he was brought up. He went to the River Jordan to be baptized by John. As Jesus emerged from the water, he heard a voice from heaven with a message from God:

“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1: 11)

Immediately after that glorious moment, Jesus was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan, to be tested.

What happens when we leave the safety of the nest? What happens to us in the wilderness? How is our human experience of leaving home, being baptized, and going into the wilderness similar to Jesus' experience? How is the church going to carry itself through the wilderness it is in? What does it mean for the church to be outside of its comfort zone?

At some point in our lives, we all leave the nest. We all leave home, and not just once, but again and again, throughout our lives. The place we are leaving is not only within our comfort zone, but home is actually the comfort zone itself; a place that is snug, secure, safe, and stable. We leave home physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Sometimes, leaving the nest is our own choice; sometimes, we are nudged out by our parents or other people; and sometimes, circumstances of life cause us to leave. No matter the reason, leaving home can involve challenges, uncertainty, fear, risk, and temptation.  It can also be exciting and joyous, a time to test our new-found wings, to be independent, self-reliant. Whether we're filled with fear, sadness, or delight, leaving home puts us at a crossroad in our lives. Leaving home is an invitation to change. An invitation to discover who we are, where God is in our lives, and how we can answer God's call to us.

When we talk about Jesus leaving his home in Nazareth, we are doing a bit of speculation, piecing together what has been written about his life, and filling in some gaps. It not as though we're told that Jesus lived at some specific address like 101 Main St., Nazareth, Israel or that he submitted a Change of Address Form to the local post office, saying:

"Please forward my mail to the River Jordan, in care of John the Baptist for a short period of time. Then, for the next forty days, my mail should be forwarded to the wilderness."

But what we are told is that:

Jesus spent little time in Nazareth after he was rejected in the synagogue. When he was 12 years old, he traveled with his parents to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover (Luke 2:42-51).

More than fifteen years passed until the time of today's gospel story of Jesus leaving home and being in the River Jordan; a place that was a crossroad between home and the wilderness. The baptism itself took place in the River but going into the wilderness presented the opportunity to live a changed life, a baptismal life.

Jesus didn't go out into the wilderness to be outside his comfort zone alone; he invited the disciples, and by extension us, to follow him. He invited fishers of fish to become fishers of men. He invites us, the beloved children of God, into the Jesus Movement. He invites us to step out of our comfort zone into a life of uncertainty, risking ourselves (body, mind, and spirit) to join him as his disciples. To join him in a life built on the strong foundation of love.

This story of Jesus going out of the nest, being baptized, and into the wilderness is not just his story. It is also our story. By the grace and loving mercy of God, we are also God's beloved daughters and sons. When we accept Jesus' story as our story, we can embrace the wilderness as a place of change and transformation. We can acknowledge that leaving the nest always leads to the wilderness. The wilderness is a place of limbo. We are no longer in our nest and we have not yet arrived at our destination. It is a place of contemplation, reflection, self-examination. We have left behind the old and are preparing to take on the new. We can shed our old identity. We have been claimed as God's own. We can re-imagine ourselves, re-create ourselves in the image of God.

The time of Covid brought the church into a place of wilderness. We have been living in an uncertain, challenging, and unknown place. All sorts of temptations have come to us.

"Let's have the Holy Eucharist anyway. We can distribute wafers and wine by shooting them into people's mouths with a special gadget like a gun."

The voice of wisdom is always needed to keep us grounded and sane.  Our distrust of ourselves and one another can create fear instead of faith. As a gathering of followers of Jesus Christ, we stay in motion with the assurance that the wilderness is temporary. At the end of every tunnel, there is light. At the end of every night, there is day. At the end of every moment of sadness, there is joy.

There's a story I'd like to share with you that you may have heard before.

There were a pair of twins who were still in their mother's womb, and they began talking to each other.

  1. "Our life here is so wonderful! It's comfortable and warm and we always have food." Time went by and they noticed things were changing.

  2. "What does this mean?" one asked.

  3. "It means that our stay in this world will soon end" the other replied.

  4. "But I don't want to leave", the first said, "I would rather stay here forever."

  5. "We don't have a choice" the other replied, "but maybe there is something better after birth!"

  6. “Nonsense,” said the other. “There is no life after delivery. What would that life be?”

  7. “Maybe there will be more light. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat with our mouths.”

  8. The other said, “This is absurd! Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous.

  9. “I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here.”

And so the last days in the mother's womb were filled with thousands of questions and great fear. Finally, the moment of birth came.

When the twins were born and left their mother's womb, their world, they opened their eyes. What they saw was beyond their greatest dreams.

When we stay in the comfort of our nest, we never discover the possibilities of what can be because we prefer the cautiousness of what we know to the adventure of what God has planned for us.

My prayer for us today is

•That we become people curious enough about could be that we risk what is to seek where God may be leading us

•That we go forth into the wilderness with a sense of excitement and joy,

oReady to become the people God is calling us to be

oHelping to "change the world from the nightmare it often is into the dream that God intends."

oKnowing that we are never alone, that God is always with us

oRemembering that we are the beloved daughters and sons of God and he is well pleased with us