I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
– Isaiah 43: 19
“The Way: You Don’t Choose a Life, You Live a Life” – Lent is a time of reflection and there’s nothing like a pilgrimage to conjure that up. Inspired by passages in the scriptures that talk about the journeys, roads and pathways of life, we will make our “way” together through this poignant season. The movie “The Way” accompanies us as our modern-day inspiration to live the life we’ve been given to the fullest.
The Wandering Way
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.
– Luke 4:1-2
After Jesus’ baptism, he went on a pilgrimage into the wilderness. A common practice among spiritual leaders of his day, this was a time to dig deep into the humanity of his soul. Along the way he encounters what we all encounter along the paths of life–temptations to stray from the path that God has intended for us. But “all who wander are not lost”–for it is in the wandering that we find our true selves.
The Way Around
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
– Luke 13:31-34
We are not always understood. Jesus found this out, just like so many others whose closest family, friends and neighbors have created an idea of who we are and cannot imagine the possibilities God has called us to. Sometimes we must go ahead and do what we dream, claiming who we know we are, taking the way around what others think we ought to do and be.
The High Way
Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price… For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
– Isaiah 55:1-9
We are taught that everything costs. But our ways are not God’s ways. There are higher ways. We are all invited, without price, to the table of God’s grace. This is the high way that we are invited to embody to others. Hospitality is the way… even we do not agree on everything, we are still one family at one table.
The Way Home
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
– 2 Cor 5: 16-17
…Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’
– Luke 15: 11b-32
No matter what we call “home” in this physical world, we yearn for a spiritual home within that offers serenity, acceptance, belonging. The extravagant acceptance of the father for the son in Jesus’ parable of the wandering son is difficult for us to believe sometimes… that no matter what we have done, who we are, how far we are from what we want to become, we are welcomed home by the Loving Parent.
The Free Way
Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
– Isaiah 43: 16-19
Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
– Phil 3: 13-14
New paths are possible through freedom in Christ. And these ways made plain before us if we have eyes to see. Yes, we will strain against adversity–such is life. But new life is always possible. New horizons are ours through relationship with God and with each other. We will offer symbols of our efforts this day in the form of rocks (which can be both stumbling blocks and stepping stones along the way) and affirm that God, our rock and our redeemer is with us every step.
The Other Way (Palm Sunday)
As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” – Luke 19: 28-40
This moment on this road for Jesus feels both like the end and the beginning. Such are so many moments of our lives. A pilgrimage may reach its destination but the hope, the wisdom, the lessons learned along the way have offered a new starting point for us. What have we learned and what transformation–what “other way”–are we called to in the name of right relationship in our lives?