Pastor's Note

November 2021

How is your stress level? Here’s a suggestion: when the world crowds in on you, that is the time to take a desert break. I don’t mean dessert break (though that is how some of us cope with stress from time to time!), I mean a time apart in a lonely place. The desert is the place we go to meet God.

As Jesus’ ministry grew more and more famous, so that even Herod had now heard of him, the lives of the disciples became more busy and chaotic and were beginning to get dangerous. The more crowds gathered, the more the ire of the Scribes, Pharisees, and official government grew. Jesus was linked to John the Baptist, who was held in Herod’s prison for proclaiming that God’s Kingdom was breaking in. Jesus declared that same message and urged his followers to live more by the rules of this Kingdom than those in the kingdom of this world, a clear threat in Herod’s mind. When John was brutally murdered after Herod’s drunken boast, and word got to Jesus, he took his disciples away to a place apart, saying to them: “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while,’ For many were coming and going. They had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.” —Mark 6:30–32

We go to a lonely place to be alone with God. When the beleaguered disciples and their Lord reached the other side of the lake, word had gone ahead of them, and over 5,000 people were waiting in the now not so desolate place. Jesus shows us all what love looks like as, even tired and grief-stricken, his first concern is not for himself but the 5,000 people on the shore in need. He attends to their conditions of body and soul, teaching and feeding them all, though it took all afternoon. After this, he sent the disciples away and went off alone to pray. He still needed that lonely place. Jesus needed to spend time alone with God, and he would not be denied. If Jesus needed to find a desert place to be alone with God to cope in a complex world, how much more do we?

With all the strife and conflict around us, our need to get away from the noise and clamor is stronger than ever. The world of social media and political dissent is nothing like the Way of the Kingdom that Jesus began. Only time alone in quiet with God in prayer can keep us from getting lost. We need to create lonely places in our lives, away from phones or computers or screens or books. No notification pings or buzzes are allowed. Turn off your devices and seek God, who speaks in the quiet. Do this for thirty minutes every single day by yourself.

The people of God must show the world a better way. To do that, we must ground ourselves in Jesus Christ and his Way. Then, as we spend quality and quantity time with him, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control will begin to grow, replacing indifference, sorrow, strife, meanness, lying, accusing, worldliness, and hatred that come and go so frequently we have no leisure even to eat. Therefore, it’s a good idea to go on retreat with God every day in quiet time alone to keep our bearings.

Of course, the whole point of fleeing from the world is to return to serve it. Jesus’ desert time away from the world prepared him to save the world. So likewise, all those who meet God in prayer will be sent by God to serve others. Without the closeness of the God we meet in solitude and silence, we have nothing of lasting value to offer the world. So every day, find a place to be alone and silent and pray to your God. Go to a lonely place and willingly close off all other voices but the voice of God. Do not allow yourself to be interrupted by anything. What could be more important?

Open your heart to the One who made it, who alone knows what is suitable for it. Open your life to the Source of life and be still before God. Then go out and share the love.

I’ll see you in Church,

Mike