Sunday, November 25, 2007


Not fare well, But fare forward, voyagers
- (T.S. Eliot)

The Lord said to Abram, 'Leave your native land, your relatives, and your father's home, and go to a country which I am going to show you.'

Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.

The Lord said to Moses, 'Leave this place, you and the people you have brought out of Egypt, and go to the land that I promised to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and to their descendants.'

' sure that you do everything that the Lord your God has commanded you... so that everything will go well with you and so that you will continue to live in the land that you are going to occupy.'

The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in: from this time forth and for evermore.

He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised.

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

'Whoever does not take up his cross and follow in my steps is not fit to be my disciple.'

... the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living ...when he came to himself he said... 'I will arise and go to my father...'

That very day two of them were going to a village... Jesus himself drew near and went with them... he went in to stay with them... And their eyes were opened.

Jesus said, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life.'

(Genesis 12:1, GNB, Romans 4:3, RSV; Exodus 33:1, GNB; Deuteronomy 5:32-33, GNB; Psalm 121:8, RSV; Psalm 23:3, GNB; Psalm 139:23-24, GNB; Matthew 10:38, GNB; Luke 15:13,17-18, RSV; Luke 24:13,15,29,31, RSV; John 14:6, RSV)

'Cheshire-Puss,' [Alice] began, rather timidly... 'Would you tell me please which way I ought to go from here?.' 'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat. 'I don't much care where... ', said Alice. 'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Of course, it does matter which way we go, whom we encounter, how open we are to the experience of God along the way. The prodigal son's journey took him astray, until, in dire straits, he 'came to his senses' (Luke 15:13ff). The two men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13ff) had an experience, but could have missed the meaning: their journey was a spiritual search as much as a walk to Emmaus, as Jesus encountered them, conversed with them, encouraged them, recalled for them God's larger story, and patiently waited for them to come to their own understanding. Then at that liminal, fantastic moment of the breaking of bread together, the two 'came to see' Jesus for who he was, and were impelled to witness to what they now knew to be true -- Christ was risen indeed! A powerful allegory for those whose soundings are in Christian waters.

'Journey' is a common metaphor for living, but purpose and destination is implied. In the life-long pilgrimage which is the spiritual life, there is no 'holy moment' isolated from the rest, but growth and struggle, dark times and bright, sorrows and joys. It is a journey in which God is loving us toward wholeness, seeking to overcome the disunity within and between us. It calls for growing self-discernment and discipline of lifestyle, for a covenantal relationship with God and a self-giving relationship with neighbour. It is not a journey we can undertake alone, but rather only within a worshipping, serving, reflective and healing community. At base, we can assert that the creative spiritual journey is really just growing in faith -- all else is so much commentary in the rhythms of brokenness and reconciliation, judgment and grace, death and resurrection.

But, 'like the development of a child's drawings, faith becomes progressively more detailed and connected in form and force, and more fluent and free in its execution' (Jerome W. Berryman).

In the thirteenth century the Franciscan, Bonaventure, wrote The soul's journey into God in which he identified three stages of the journey: the rectification of one's fallen state, the exercise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the affective union with God characterised by joy and repose. He saw the crucified Christ as the beginning, means, and final consummation of the journey. In this century, psycho-analyst Carl Jung's concept of 'individuation' has helped some understand the process of bringing consciousness and the unconscious into a working relationship. In Jung's understanding of this life-long process, the 'first half of life is given over to differentiating and bringing into consciousness the problems of life that come to the fore at that time: the sex drive and the power drive... The second half of life then involves the task of reintegration (recognising as an aspect of the self) that which we had not chosen' (Wallace B. Clift). Somewhere in the overlap between Bonaventure’s mystical union in love, and Jung's union of opposites in the psyche, lies the largely uncharted territory of your and my growth in the faith, our profound moments of encounter with the divine, and the joy of knowing that God calls us to fully tap the resources of the Spirit in even the most mundane experiences of life.

Recent popular writings on the 'mid-life crisis' point us to pilgrimages as old as the Aeneid and the Odyssey: the one pointing life in a new direction, the other affirming in a new way one's original calling. Outer journeys can express or create the context for the real, interior journey. Alternatively, the urge to fresh goals and deeper meaning can be subordinated to contentment with past achievements. Whenever and however the krisis comes, it is a true time of judgment, a God-given opening to be seized with courage, entered in faith, and pursued with passion. But beware the dragon that sits by the side of the road, lest he devour you -- 'we go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon' (St Cyril of Jerusalem).

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch where-thro'
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Ulysses

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot, 'Little Gidding', Four Quartets

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

Christina Georgina Rossetti, Uphill

To quote Carl Jung, '... we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the programme of life's morning: for what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie. A person in the second half of life... no longer needs to educate his conscious will, but experience his own inner being.'

Quoted in Jacobi and Hull, editors, Psychological Reflections

Where am I now? Is this the love and care
Of Jesus for the men that pilgrims are?
Thus to provide that I should be forgiven!
And dwell already the next door to heaven!
There's no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim...

He knows he at the end
Shall life inherit...
He'll labour night and day
To be a pilgrim.

John Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost, The road not taken

Thy way, not mine, O Lord,
However dark it
Lead me by Thine own hand,
Choose out the path for me.

Horatius Bonar, Thy way, not mine

Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom;
lead thou me on.
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
lead thou me on.

Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene -- one step enough for me.

It was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou
Should'st lead me on.

I loved to choose and see my path; but now
lead thou me on.

John Henry Newman

I shall walk with thee through the valley, and thou shalt fear no shadow. Hold to My promises. They are given to thee as a chart is given to ship, and a compass to the hunter. Thou mayest set Thy course by My promises. They will lead thee and guide thee in places where there is no trodden path.

Frances J. Roberts, Come Away My Beloved

Keep my mind open to the newness of your gospel.
Keep me always growing to maturity, growing into union
with you.
Keep me from ever thinking that I am there.

'Old and new' (Mark 2:21-22) Rex Chapman, A kind of Praying

Lord God, I thank you for the call to journey with you through this introduction to life eternal. I thank you for the familiar territory Il have already traversed; for the more taxing climb beyond the plains into the spiritual foothills; for the timely strength to make my way through the undergrowth of personal and family cares, across the deep valleys of national conflicts, and up the increasingly steep and rock-strewn mountainsides of international un-peace.

I am grateful for those you chose to accompany me on this expedition -- some I would not have picked myself, but you knew in advance what personal resources and strength of character, what skills and perceptions would be needed, and Il marvel at some of the special companions you've recruited.

Each day, Lord, has its routines and its challenges. It is refreshing-exhausting work toiling into your mountains, at times precarious, at times frustratingly slow, at times exhilarating as I catch a glimpse of panoramic views of the soul's route between distant peaks. At critical points your engineers have come to my aid, and constructed bridges across a valley, formed rough tracks around a peak or across some marshy area.

There is always the day's march to be done, new challenges in the new day, the temptation of reverting to a familiar, safe route, and the impetus to try a new one -- however hesitantly. I realise even now how much you've kept up the supplies; what I find on the path meets my daily necessities for sustenance and abundantly so. I've been amazed too, Lord, at the coherence of my company: different individuals, we find a common bond of purpose, interdependence, trust and love, despite our seeming diversity. Thank you.

And so it is with a sense of excitement and anticipation that I set off each day, wondering what this day will bring, what new vistas and challenges. There may well be bruises and scrapes, an occasional fail, but a sense of purpose and shared adventure can then break-in and pervade our journey together. The new range of peaks beyond call us on; what could have frustrated us as a barrier seems to have a magnetism to draw us further.

There is enough in each day to reward us, yet a sense that the journey has barely begun; so much more lies ahead - higher ranges, new companions on the way, others whose paths touch for a time then diverge... Thank you Lord.

You, who are the Way, show me your way. Amen.

A Benediction

May the God who created this wonderful world, with its myriad paths and challenging crossroads, grant you his firm direction. May the Son, who brings light to the darkest valley, heal your hurts and share your burdens. May the Holy Spirit, who has always breathed life and hope where there is chaos and despair, renew you in soul and spirit for the day to come. Amen.

Still Waters, Deep Waters ed. By Rowland Croucher pp. 161-167

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