(Rough thoughts for my meditation in the Contemplative Service this Sunday)
In Acts 22:4 - 11 (Saul's Conversion) we have a two references to 'The Way'. Saul was on a literal journey - on the way to Damascus, and the followers of Jesus are on a metaphorical Journey - Saul refers to the people he persecutes as believers who follow 'This Way'.
When I'm planning a trip to somewhere new, the best person to seek for advice is someone who has been that way before me. They have the authority of experience, they can speak out of their own enounter with the Way. If I haven't walked a particular path before, then I can theorize but I cannot speak with certainty.
Trouble is, we often do - esp when we are talking about the Christian way.
It is very easy for us to judge in 5 minutes or less a path that somebody else has been walking and wrestling with for years. We pull a bible verse out of context, without thought or study and hold it up as a Rule that it was never meant to be.
We need to learn to honor the work of God in each other's lives, even when it seems that they are taking a road that we would never have predicted and we're not sure if we even approve.
The difficulty is, journeying is challenging and so we create our own formulas, our own rules that help us navigate uncharted territory. 'Well there is always a La Quinta next to Dennys.' 'There is always a Domino's Pizza near Blockbuster'. 'Ross dress for less is always next to Pier 1 and Old Navy'.
The problem comes when the formulas no longer work.
"If you obey God you will have showers of blessings."
"If you believe and don't doubt you will be healed."
"If God seems distant it is because of unconfessed sin in your life."
We cannot make our own individual experiences into universal truths. Just because I encounter God through walking a Labyrinth or through Taize worship does not mean that everyone will.
As we journey our view of the horizon changes, our perspective alters. formulas we once held up as Truisms will evolve.
Saul's journey led him to the Damascus road, where he had a powerful encounter with God, but he didn't stay on that road trying to recreate that experience. As a worship leader I often have people coming up and requesting certain songs. Now I'm often on the lookout for new material, but sometimes I wonder about the motives behind asking for certain music. I once had someone say to me 'We must sing Shout to the Lord' today, God always speaks to me when I sing that song'.
We mustn't stop short of our journey. Saul didn't make his home in a tent on the road to Damascus, he journeyed on. And so should we. We fear leaving some things behind, and we fear the road ahead, but if we stay put we will never grow into all that God has for us.
The prophet Isaiah said '...this is the way, walk in it'. We cannot walk if we are afraid to pick up our feet and leave the spot we are on.