Over the last few years, the metaphor of Journey has become the dominant one when we speak of the Christian life, or better, 'Walk'. Of course this ties quite neatly at first sight with the idea of following Jesus, except first sight can be deceptive. Talk of 'My Journey', gives the game away. As we explored yesterday, this Life of Faith isn't about us - it's about God. It is only Our journey insofar as it is the journey we make, but Nothing else is Ours. If we are to be faithful to Christ, then it is His journey. He sets the direction, he determines the days itinerary, he is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end - indeed His Life is the Meaning of the journey.
As we explored yesterday, when the comfortable 'me' shaped 'god' is discovered - often through Trial - to be no more than the echo of ourSelves, it can feel as if we have lost our bearings. Our lives were Self referential and now they can no longer be if we are to have Faith. But what now is Faith in this strange new world to which we wake from the sleep of death? It is to follow Jesus - and is so doing give up our life.
We have all too easily divorced believing in Jesus from following Him. Some years ago I was part of a small group studying 'discipleship'. One lady member of the group, a Christian of many years standing who knew her Scriptures better than any of us, was not at all happy with the title of the course. 'I do not believe that we are all called to be disciples'. Although this statement sounded and sounds outrageous, it was in effect the voicing of the attitude most of us have to our faith. That we can have faith, but not follow. We make Our Journey and Jesus accompanies us. This is in the end a death dealing deceit. It is the deceit of a faith that is about Us and not about God.
In the Wilderness the people of God are meant to learn that this is All about following, that the life of faith is one of dependence upon God. Realising that He is the Source of our Life, we can do nothing more than chase after Him. Like a small child who instinctively knows that their security is in the company of their parents - we Must follow.
But that following is disorientating to us - we feel at sea.
Faith is no comfort blanket - it is an insistent Knowledge that we Must follow
That we Must be with Jesus
It is All about Him
Mark in his gospel makes very little of the forty days - his account is sparse 'He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him' - and then Immediately the action moves on. Mark is Always using the word 'Immediately' - he reveals to us that we cannot settle. The disciples find themselves at times confused, at times (literally) all at sea in a great storm, at times in conflict with Jesus - but all the time with Him. And indeed this continues through Jesus' death and resurrection. 'you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.' Mark wants Us to know, this is how it is to follow the Risen Lord too.
Adele Calhoun in her deceptively lovely book 'Invitations from God', puts this aspect of following - that it decenters us, and in a very real sense 'Saves us from ourSelves' - very well.
Following is a huge deal to Jesus, because following builds character, sands away the ego and shapes the heart. Followers can't barge ahead or simply do the next thing that pops into their head. they can't set cruise control or autopilot and zone out on what's happening. Followers must be alert attentive and ready to turn on someone else's dime. Jesus followers take up the challenge of turning where He turns, stopping where he stops, detouring where he detours, loving whom He loves an serving whom He serves.
To Follow is to lay down Our Life and indeed Our version of faith.
It is to learn to be at Sea on the Vast Ocean of God's Love
With Jesus our Only security