Into the Wilderness
March 1, 2009
Into the Wilderness
Open your Bible
Born to Be Wild
FROM THE BIBLE
6 And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” 12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.”
Arcana Coelestia (Elliott) n. 730
730. 'Forty days and nights' means the duration of temptation. This is quite clear from the Word of the Lord. The reason 'forty' means the duration of temptation is the fact that the Lord allowed Himself to be tempted for forty days, as is clear in Matt. 4:1, 2; Luke 4:2; Mark1:13. And because every single requirement in the Jewish Church and in all other representative Churches before the Lord's Coming was merely a type and shadow of Him, so too were forty days and nights. In general they represented and meant all temptation, and in particular however long its duration. And since anyone undergoing temptation experiences vastation of all things that belong to the proprium and of things that are bodily - for things of the proprium and those that are bodily have to die, doing so indeed through conflict and temptation, before he is reborn a new man, that is, before he becomes spiritual and celestial - 'forty days and nights' therefore also means the duration of vastation. The same applies here where the subject is both the temptation of the member of the new Church called Noah and also the destruction of those who lived before the Flood.
In today’s Swedenborgian reading, we are told:
And since anyone undergoing temptation experiences vastation of all things that belong to the proprium and of things that are bodily - for things of the proprium and those that are bodily have to die, doing so indeed through conflict and temptation, before he is reborn a new man, that is, before he becomes spiritual and celestial - 'forty days and nights' therefore also means the duration of vastation…
All of us, on our journey of regeneration, have to undergo conflict and temptation. We need them in order to let go of the old self and be re-born.
There is a modern-day story of a wilderness experience that is our movie – and our book – for March: Into the Wild. The book was written by Jon Krakauer in 1996 and made into a movie in 2007.
It is the true story of a young man, Christopher McCandless, who grew up in a well-to-do family. He had an excellent education at Emory University. Then, he gave away his law school tuition money – to Oxfam to help world starvation. He made his way to Alaska for a journey into the wilderness, to live alone and off the land. He did so for four months, keeping a detailed journal of his experience. It is a shock that he died of starvation, in 1992, only a few miles from civilization.
The story of why he went into the wilderness, what it meant for his spiritual journey, and the significance of his death, are questions we can ponder together this month. I read the book this week, and look forward to watching the movie during the month. If you are interested, here is the trailer for the movie:
There was something inside of Chris that drove him to the Wilderness. Like Jesus, he felt compelled to participate in that journey.
Part of what a wilderness experience means, is that we don’t know what will happen there. We only know that we have to go there. And going there has something to do with our regeneration on the spiritual path.
Our focus this year is on the creation story in Genesis, and how Swedenborg sees it as story about our spiritual journey. This month, we are looking at the 2nd stage of Swedenborg’s spiritual journey, corresponding to the 2nd day of Creation. He wrote:
At present the second stage rarely comes into play without trouble, misfortune, and grief, which enable bodily and world concerns – things that are our own – to fade away and in effect die out.
How often have you found that you need to walk into the wilderness of grief and misfortune to let go of something that is holding you back on your spiritual journey?
During March – and this season of Lent – we’ll be looking at these times in our lives and, if you wish, sharing them with each other in our chats and forums.
Sometimes the wilderness makes the most sense when we make the journey in community. When we share our fears and confusions with each other, we can remind ourselves that the journey is all about our spiritual growth. We can support each other in walking through the hard path – and taking on the challenges of the wilderness.
One of the controversies about Chris is that he didn’t accept help on his journey. Many people tried to convince him to take a map, to take more supplies, to listen to the experiences of those who knew the Alaskan wilderness.
For whatever reason, Chris did not take the advice. He made his own way. He had a deep and significant spiritual journey in that wilderness.
But, if he had had a map, he would probably have made it out alive.
Let’s share with each other the maps we have found on our own journeys.
We were all “born to be wild.” We were born to face the wilderness in the spiritual journey. But we weren’t born to face it alone; we were born to learn how to support each other, and to accept help.
Our closing song is a message to each other in community: I won’t be afraid as long as you stand by me.
Stand by Me