Friday, 2 April 2010

Everchanging Landscapes

Better late than never.... I'm finally publishing my reflections on the texts for the 5th Sunday of Lent. It was the passage from Isaiah and Philippians that particularly caught my attention.

While some might find the passage from Isaiah encouraging and full of hope, to me I must confess it challenges me in the same way spring sometimes does and how I read it now is very different, yet similar, from how I would have reflected on it 5 years ago. Then I was on the verge of the 'wilderness' or 'dark night of the soul' (rather vague Christian jargon, I know, but I don't have any better word at the moment...). While initially my experience of what felt like the disappearance of God terrified me and left me gasping like a fish out of water, I gradually came to let go of my old, familiar and incomplete conceptions and notions of God and who he is. Like Paul recognizing that all he formerly boasted of - his understanding of the scripture, God and what a Godly life consisted of - he counted it as loss compared to the greatness of knowing Christ and being found in him, by meeting God in the 'wilderness' my conceptions of scripture, God and what a Godly life consisted of was challenged - my righteousness no longer coming from law in black and white propositions and dogmas, but from Christ by faith and identification with his suffering on the cross. The place where the son of God in anguish cries out: "My God, my God - why have you forsaken me?" 

I learned not only to survive in the desert, so to speak, but to thrive there. The wilderness remained wild and unpredictable, God remained obscured by the darkness and clouds, but it became home. A place where God did new things, where he made a way and let there spring forth water from unforeseeable places. 

It is the place Abraham calls home for many years, and is given the promise of being a great nation. 
It is where Isak lived his life and prospered under God's blessing. 
It is where Jacob becomes Israel after wrestling with God - a fight that leaves him limping the rest of his life. 
I have come to love and be grateful for the wilderness.

Now that the wilderness has become familiar landscape, the challenge that rings in me after reading these texts is yet again one of change and continuously being expectant of what God is doing new, recognizing it and welcoming it. Lush green pastures and overflowing wells of water would completely change the landscape I have now over time come to love, and seems to me just as disorienting, bewildering and terrifying as the desert first once was. 

I guess the challenge is to realize like Paul that "I have not already obtained this - the full knowledge of sharing in Christ's suffering, death and resurrection - nor have I already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own." 

It is the challenge of spring - and of Easter - living in the tension between death and resurrection, desert and lush lands. Daring to live and be intimate with both, never stiffening, becoming rigid or too settled in either landscape.

What is it to share in His death?

What is it to share in His resurrection?     



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