I haven't been blogging much recently, sometimes life leads you to places where words and thoughts are difficult to gather together in any coherent way, and I guess that is where I have been. It has been a wilderness experience in many ways, and one that has led me to be very honest with myself and answer some hard questions. It has not been comfortable at all and at times I have felt quite lost, but now I have come to the decision that it is time to begin the journey outward, to step onto the road of life again, to look forward and to keep going. I guess that is why this picture spoke to me so powerfully today.
It is called "Just a Shower" and is by the artist David Walker. I think I like it because there is a certain determination about it, the woman walking is not going to be put off by the rain, she is set on her journey, her path is clear. I think there is a freedom about it too the rain is not hindering her, it is simply a reality for the moment and so she walks on.
As I reflect on this I am drawn back to the Gospel reading for tomorrow, Jesus has set his face towards Jerusalem and will not be turned away. He sends his messengers ahead of him to secure accommodation, but on finding that he is set on going to Jerusalem the Samaritans reject him and refuse him any hospitality. In some ways I guess it is unsurprising that they reject him , although Jesus was clearly different he is definitely a Jew and there was no love lost between the Samaritans and the Jews. That said he had been received by them before now with gladness, but perhaps this new resolve was too much for them, he was set on his destination and somehow that made things different.
The disciples were challenged too, their desire to call down fire on the heads of the Samaritans is rebuked by Jesus and he continues on with them to another place, nothing must hinder his journey. Others come in to the picture, one declaring allegiance and a desire to follow is told of the discomforts, perils and hardships of the journey. Others charged to follow want to put other things first, but Jesus is having none of it. His journey is taking him to the cross, and through the cross to the power and freedom of the resurrection and he calls us even today to walk that road with him, and we cannot get to the resurrection apart form the cross.
We cannot get to the resurrection apart from the cross, this is a deep truth and it calls us to walk the way of the cross day by day, moment by moment. It calls us to set our faces not towards Jerusalem but towards freedom, the freedom that a life set on walking Gods way will bring. As we walk that way we will need to die a thousand deaths to temptations that assail us and to our own selfish desires, each time choosing to set our faces towards the freedom that only Christ can bring, and he will help us for he is no longer bound in time and place, but free to help us on our journey, fulfilling his promise never to leave or forsake us. He is free to send the gift of his Spirit directly into our lives empowering us to overcome even the highest hurdle, and light up the darkest night. He is free, and he calls us into his freedom.
He calls us to follow and it that call he offers us the power and the grace to move beyond our own boundaries and self imposed restrictions. He calls us to follow and as he calls he empowers us to step beyond the restrictions others may have placed upon us. Sometimes we will run forward joyfully, and at other times we will take small tentative step after small tentative step, no matter how fast of far we move he calls us on for he has a plan and a purpose for us, and longs to help us to realise our potential in the freedom that he brings.
He also calls us together, as his people, he calls us to make a difference in the world, as his church he calls us into his mission, to be salt and light, to bring out the God colours and God flavours in the world, and just as I have been on a wilderness journey I believe that the church ( local and national) has found itself on a wilderness journey in recent times. The world has changed and we have not kept pace with it, in some cases our practices and buildings have become our reason for being and we have lost sight of our true purpose and calling. We have had to or will have to look honestly into the mirror together and ask questions about our life together, our reason for being, and what the future might hold. At this point it can be very tempting to look back and wonder why things are not as they were, for surely that is how they should be!
Of course if we are truly honest with ourselves as individuals and together we know that returning to the past is not a valid option, and if we did we would soon discover that those ways are not how things should be today, for today is a new day, filled with challenges and opportunities of its own, and while we may have regrets we must not let them hold us back, and perhaps the only way to do that is to deliberately bring them to the cross where we can allow God to take and transform them, and this again will be a dying to ourselves, we may do this with deep sadness, we may do this with relief ( we will probably do it with a mixture of both), but do it we must, because only in the letting go we will find that new life begins to become possible.
As for me, I have chosen the way forward, right now I am walking through the rain, but walk on I must, and God being my helper, walk on I will, He is my choice, for I have no other.