A message from our Minister, The Rev Dr Neil Dougall: May 2019
Life as a Journey
The image of life-as-a-journey has been overworked of late. It seems that every Reality TV star says that being on the show has been an amazing journey. When a metaphor loses its freshness it becomes an easy target for parody. It’s amusing when a comedian makes sport of a reality TV contestant’s description of their inner journey.
What’s surprising, then, is that the image persists. Since its no longer fresh and frequently made fun of, you’d expect people to stop talking about life-as-a-journey. They haven’t. Perhaps that’s because there is something to this idea which is more than metaphor.
There is a collection of Psalms which are called the Songs of Ascent. They are Psalms 120 to 134. These are songs for a journey. They are songs which pilgrims sang as they literally travelled to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is 754 m above sea level. It sits on a plateau in the Judean mountains. This means that when people went to worship in Jerusalem they had to climb to reach the city. This was both an actual journey and an activity that prompted an inner journey.
Eugene Peterson has written a book on these Psalms entitled, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. In it he distinguishes between pilgrims and tourists. On the road to Jerusalem you meet both. There are people who are heading to the city to look at the ancient monuments and discover some of the history – tourists. There are people who are heading to the city to encounter God and worship him – pilgrims. Tourists simply make an actual journey. For pilgrims there is also an inner journey.
Peterson says that in an instant society, some Christians become tourists searching for quick solutions and short cuts to spiritual maturity. They are eager to sample many spiritual experiences. The Bible in contrast identifies Christians as disciples and pilgrims who are not on a journey to an actual place. They are engaged in a long obedience in the same direction. Their eyes are fixed on God. They are prepared to invest time and effort in order to encounter him, experience him, and be transformed by him. The metaphor of an inner journey is particularly apt.
Peterson’s words strike a chord for us in St Andrew Blackadder. We are people who believe we are called to be journeying with Jesus. We have said that one of the things we want to do is to encourage one another to see discipleship as something we are all called to. Many of us took part in Discipleship Explored at the beginning of the year.
Discipleship we have discovered, is a lifestyle not an activity. It is the work of a lifetime rather than a season. We are constantly looking for new ways to discover what it means to be a disciple, to be a pilgrim, to be journeying with Jesus.
During the next three months we are going to use the Songs of Ascent to help us. We will focus on Psalms 120 – 134 in our morning worship. There are companion Bible Studies for six of these Psalms which some of the Home Groups will be using. In all of this our prayer will be that God will help us to deepen our discipleship as we continue to follow Jesus.
‘I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go up to the house of the Lord’. (Psalm 122:1 )
To see other messages from Neil, click on the appropriate month in the table below.
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