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:

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