(I found this in my documents today. I know it's not Lent, I'm a priest, after all. But with polls showing less than 50% of Americans are Christians, it has meaning today.)
THE DESERT OF LENT
There is good news and bad news. And both are the same—we are living in the “post-Christian era”. American culture used to be synonymous with a culturally agreed upon “Christian culture.” That is no longer true. In fact, the Christian church is marginalized in 2012. We live in a “multi-cultural” society. Christianity is no longer the norm. In fact, the Church is now and will be for some extended time, perhaps forever, a remnant in our society. Once again, as in the first and second centuries of the first millennium, we are a “pilgrim people”, the Church lives in the desert—on the edges of society, as a counter-culture.
That is the bad news and the good news.
It is “bad news” because it requires us, as the Church, to give up our arrogance and control of the culture. It is “good news” because it requires us, as the Church, to give up our arrogance and control of the culture.
The GOOD NEWS and BAD NEWS are exactly the same.
The “desert church” motif is one I appreciate and embrace. The first rule of living in the desert is this: never carry anything you don’t need to survive. So, here in the desert, the Church has the opportunity to lay down and cast aside much of the flotsam and jetsam that holds us back and pins us down. We have to be a “pilgrim people” who travel light.
At a clergy conference years ago, one of the speakers talked about “the desert church”—the church of the new millennium and this post-Christian era. It is almost like being back in the days before the Council of Nicaea in 325 C. E. (If you had any doubt that we’re in the “post Christian era” notice how the politically correct—like me!—use “C. E.”, meaning “the Common Era”, for dates rather than the good-old “A. D.”, anno Domini, meaning, “the year of our Lord.”) After 17 centuries of dominating and forming western culture, the church is back in the market place, competing with other faiths, other philosophies, other spiritual systems. It is an exciting and challenging time for the church. I honestly can’t think of a better time to be a Christian. We must live with urgency and passion. We must “travel light”.
We have a job to do.