Thursday, February 16, 2006

Christ is Calling ::

The journey of Christ waits for us. Those who keep journals of their reflections often observe a thread that runs through various entries. Christ continually leads the way if we are open to follow.

The journey of Christ is a paradox: the more we follow a set path, the further we drift off course. The psalmist prayed that God would lead us in the "paths of righteousness," the worn, well-known trails of God's guidance. Jesus defined the way as a relationship with him, "I am the way." It is not the path that we are to follow, but the Pathfinder. We naturally assume that we are to discover and create the way, as if cutting a trail through a jungle. There is some truth to this. The journey is one of discovery and co-creation. We do blaze our own trails with Christ. As soon as we begin to plot the path, however, we've already drifted off course.

One common construing of the journey of Christ is that it is like flying by instruments. As long as we attend to the dials in front of us and respond according­ly, we'll make it to our destination. The dials of direction are the Scriptures, the inner witness of the Spirit, community wisdom, and so on. There is truth to this. But, what is the destination that we're striving for? Heaven? Perfection? Self-esteem? Success?

Christians of the flying-by-instruments school inevitably become distraught by their inability to stay on course. They fall asleep at the wheel. They start looking at the scenery out the window. They fly through overcast skies and get scared. They receive conflicting signals from the dials. Sooner or later they lose their focus on the instruments. Then what? How can we keep from being distracted from Christ?

Jesus said, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me." The yoke is designed for two. Christ invites us to be yokefellows, to journey with God. The journey is not about the destination, it is about the yoke that binds two together. It is about relationship. The destination, if you must have one, is union with Christ.

The paradox is this: not that we are distracted from Christ, but that we are distracted by Christ. One of Jesus' metaphors of his own saving purpose was a shepherd who leaves the flock to seek out the one lost sheep. We, like sheep, have gone astray, says Isaiah. We live in a perpetual state of focus, not on Christ but on the issues of life. It is not we who seek out Christ; Christ seeks us out and distracts us away from our preoccupations. Jesus said, "My sheep know my voice." Shepherds lead their flocks; sheep follow out of a sense of familiarity. Perhaps what Jesus meant was that our following Christ is contingent on knowing that we are Christ’s followers.

Right in the middle of our busy, preoccupied lives Christ calls. Christ calls to us, and the moment we lift our heads to listen, the journey begins.

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