26 February 2015

N. T. Wright and “The Way of the Wilderness”

way of pilgrimageI came across this meditation by N. T. Wright, based on his book The Way of the Lord: Christian Pilgrimage Today ( N. T. Wright, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co

The wilderness comes in many shapes and sizes, just as the deserts of Judaea and Sinai are by no means uniform. I used to think of deserts as simply miles and miles of flat sands, punctuated by the odd oasis; but the wilderness that surrounds the Promised Land comes in many forms. There are huge crags, like Masada, the last bastion of the revolutionaries after the fall of Jerusalem, an enormous barren rock to the south-west of the Dead Sea. There are gullies and crevasses, great rocky outcrops and hidden valleys. Walk a mile or two off the road and you could get lost quite easily.

The wilderness of the spiritual journey is much like that. For some, it is simply a sense that everything has gone very dry. There is no delight in prayer or reading the scriptures. Going to church has become boring and futile. The sacraments seem a pointless ritual. Where before there was a sense of God’s presence as a loving parent, gently nursing and guiding, or of the wise prompting of the Holy Spirit, there now seems to be a great emptiness. The story of Jesus, once so full of interest and stimulation, the scrap-book of the life of a new best friend, seems dull, and even the story of the cross and resurrection has apparently lost its power to sweep the heart. This is the common experience of many, many Christians at some stage in their pilgrimage. Tragically, some at once conclude that what happened at the Jordan was all a delusion, a passing phase, that there really is no Jerusalem to go on to. Others wander blindly without hope, and stumble by accident — or was it an accident? — back on to the right path. But the way of Christian maturity is to recognize the desert path for what it is — another mile on the road called ‘Faithfulness’ — and to tread it with obedience and patience:

24 February 2015

On the Road to Easter

clip_image002Mark 8:27–30 (GNB)

27 Then Jesus and his disciples went away to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Tell me, who do people say I am?” 28 “Some say that you are John the Baptist,” they answered; “others say that you are Elijah, while others say that you are one of the prophets.” 29 “What about you?” he asked them. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” 30 Then Jesus ordered them, “Do not tell anyone about me.”

Ash Wednesday was celebrated last week, which traditionally marks the beginning of the Lenten season, the 40 days to Easter and the Passion of the Christ. Often times Protestant do not participate in the ceremony, and they do not usually contemplate the meaning of the event.

The aim of Ash Wednesday is said to be threefold:

  • to meditate on our mortality, sinfulness, and need for a savior;
  • to renew our commitment to daily repentance in all of life;
  • and to remember with confidence and gratitude that Jesus has conquered sin and death.

Our daily worship should be filled with the impact of this gospel truth. In order to truly understand and appreciate the impact of these three statements above, we have to start by answering the question that Jesus posed to Peter: “Who do you say I am?” If we can answer whole heartedly to Jesus, as Peter did, “you are the Messiah,” we can then rejoice with the Apostle Paul when he says,

“Consider yourself dead to sin and alive in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11).

To Reflect:

Spend some time being still before God, and ask the Spirit to search yourself:

Psalm 139:23–24 (GNB)

23 Examine me, O God, and know my mind; test me, and discover my thoughts. 24 Find out if there is any evil in me and guide me in the everlasting way.

Picture Credit: The White Crucifixion by Marc Chagall, 1938