January 12th, 2021 by Christopher Caudle
Do you feel like you're in the wilderness? Have you completely lost your bearings?
Are you in the ocean depths—overwhelmed and under pressure?
Are you floating in an open sky—feeling disconnected from everyone and everything?
Bible people often found themselves far away from normal too. We call this exile.
Sometimes they felt this exile without ever changing their address: Exiles in their own home, estrangement between fathers and children, spouses, between citizens or leaders.
As the New Testament begins, John is out in the wilderness, calling a people who recognize they are turned around.
We can feel the same way. Its hard to move forward because were so far off the starting blocks. We are disoriented, off the bubble, out of sync.
The Bible describes in sad and vivid detail how the alienation that leads to exile affects both the actors and their families, restlessness and rootlessness sweeping families, peoples and nations off their moorings.
There is lots of help for us when we recognize being out of place, and I encourage you to make use of it.
Part of that help often involves us looking forward to arriving at a better place. For ourselves, our children, our neighborhood, our nation.
But we do not always clearly see the way. We feel uncertain about our direction.
There are many who cry aloud hawking their maps, there are many who advertise what they are selling, and there are many who talk of the future as though it will erase the past.
But every person who walks out of the wilderness doesn’t go forward to a new life.
Every change of address isn’t a change of destiny.
Changing clothes, changing spouses, changing schools, changing jobs…sometimes we just reshuffle the tents in exile.
That is the churn of movement that doesn’t lead anywhere.
But when the Bible describes true changing motion, it uses the term “exodus.”
In an exodus, there’s a destination in mind, promised beforehand, often long beforehand, and that destination is described in terms as vivid as life is around you.
A land flowing with milk a honey.
A place of peace and everyone secure under their own vine.
A city with children playing in the streets and old people rating together. A place of security and plenty.
This exodus experience is not a single event, but God uses it in scripture both to lead his people of of slavery at the beginning of the Old Testament but also to call them home from exile at the end of the Old Testament.
Isaiah talks about the promised return from exile in language that Bible teachers have summarized as a second exodus: Exodus 2.0 Deluxe.
You can imagine this for yourself without trying very hard.
What does a better life look like?
From not being centered to being on the way to a better future, for you, for your student, for your coworker, for your neighbor up the street.
But here is the point for today.
Exodus cannot be manufactured.
It is not a one-click Amazon choice away.
Its more than changing addresses or changing habits, or changing mindsets.
In the Bible, the only way to get from an Exile to and Exodus is through an Epiphany, a revelation of God showing up exactly where you are. A God big enough for the wilderness, a good true enough for the promised land, a God ready to save.
He is ready to show up in the exile, before the exodus. When you’re still turned around.
The world is torn apart. The capital, the streets of our cities, our hospitals, our friendships, our common purpose.
We are in the wilderness, ready to fight or flight or freeze.
We cannot see the way clearly to where we ought to go- alone or together.
Wherever you are right now—turned around and alienated from God, from yourself, from those you love or from those you’ve grown hostile to- Jesus wants to show up there.
Wherever you’re trying to get to—a new space or a new start or a new center or a new wind, Jesus wants to show up while you’re still far away.
See him standing in the wilderness, in the waters, under the sky, and watch heaven open for him- and for all those he stands beside.
Listen to the full sermon here.