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Perseverance on the Spiritual Journey

by The Rev. Dr. James D. Findlay

James FindlayAs the Earth makes its way around our Sun-Star and we approach the Autumn Equinox, our own journeys, inward and outward, continue through both sweetness and sorrow, triumphs and troubles.  And, as always, the Lectionary Scripture texts from our shared tradition offer striking narratives and images which provide sustenance for us as we proceed on the Path.

Texts from Exodus relate primal events describing Israel’s formative experiences as the People of God.  In Ex. 12, YHWH issues commands to Moses and Aaron for how the community should eat together and mark their homes with blood as a sign when Death passes over.  Ex. 14 is the Exodus event itself, when the Pillar of cloud and fire guides and protects, the people walk through the sea and Pharaoh’s army is drowned when the waters return.  In Ex. 16, as the trek in a dry desert toward Mount Sinai and the wilderness beyond begins, the people are given bread and meat.  Finally, in Ex. 17, after they again complain about their condition on the path toward freedom, Moses strikes the rock and water flows.

Though these are striking events which shape our faith, they can also be read as a description of our soul’s journey.  The Passover ritual is a preparation for further spiritual progress:  sacrificing and facing the death of enslaving states of mind and heart are essential to inward growth.  Passing through water and darkness while leaving behind old ways shows us that God will guide us on our own Exodus, our own “Way Out” into a divinely-nurtured future.  Though we may wish to return to more comfortable previous mind-sets, God will always provide for us as we move beyond the Egypts of our past into the freedom and responsibility of the times ahead.

Moving to the New Testament, we find that Jesus’ parables and admonitions about community behavior and the Kingdom of Heaven from Matthew’s Gospel, though sometimes sharp, threatening, or violent in their imagery, can also serve as guides for the path we tread within and without.  In Matt. 18, we learn of the necessity of forgiveness.  The parable of the unforgiving servant shows that our tendency, without spiritual discipline, is to hold grudges, while God’s essence, which we can cultivate in ourselves, is to be generous to ourselves and others.  In Matt. 20, we find that in the Divine Kin-dom, the God’s heavenly realm on earth, all receive the same wage.  There are no “pay differentials” or “status hierarchies” based on what some may seem to “deserve.”  All parts of ourselves are equally valuable; in the divinely-created human community, all are provided for fully and graciously.  Finally, in Matt. 21, Jesus’ questions about John the Baptist and his parable about two sons make a simple but essential point.  It is not what we speak with our mouths that matters; instead, our behavior reflect our response to God’s intention for us.  Verbal promises without actual obedience is an obstacle to our progress.

No matter the difficulties or detours, the path to freedom and greater communion with God will bring us constant blessings.  These gifts from Scripture offer us spiritual food to persevere with the sacred journey.

Note from author: Please feel free to contact me via e-mail at sleight_of_time@yahoo.com.  I wish to engender a conversation among us about how the Word and Spirit are active in our lives, and how we might nurture these gifts further. I also am happy to work with groups and individuals on how to nurture the Word and Spirit among us. Please visit my Facebook Page at   www.facebook.com/pages/Spiritual-Accompaniment-Services/219750211459838  as another way of being in this sacred conversation. I look forward to hearing from many of you soon!

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