to walk worthily of the Lord, pleasing him in all respects

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Lent, Day 14: prepare the way of the Lord

Qumran Ritual BathWe recently visited Qumran in the Judean wilderness, just by the north west shore of the Dead Sea, where are the ruins of some type of Jewish sectarian community that practised rigorous purity rituals as well as strident preservation and attention to the Jewish scriptures and related writings. The site is most famous for yielding the literary remains of that community, the well known Dead Sea Scrolls found in 11 nearby caves.

Some think John may have been part of this community for a time as they too had gone into the wilderness to prepare a place for the Lord (they were highly critical of how the Jewish establishment in Juerusalem practiced the faith). They even read Isaiah 40:3 as a mandate for them, but put the emphasis differently.

  • Ritual Bath explanation QumranFor the Gospels, Isaiah 40:3 reads: A voice in the wilderness is calling "Prepare the Way of the Lord."
  • For the Qumran community, the Isaiah passage reads: A voice is calling "In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord."
The differences are probably many but I want to focus on one possible difference important for Lent. Lent is a symbolic withdrawl, a figurative going out into the wilderness in order to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Unlike the Qumran community, our expectation is not that we are making a place in the wilderness that is suitable for the Lord to come to us - ours is not a retreat to a more suitable environment for God. Rather, it is about making ourselves more suitable for service to God where ever he'll send us. We turn to the Lenten wilderness for what it does to us to make us more available, more useful for God.

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