This Weary Pilgrimage - Two

Last week I started sharing about the wonderful church camp we had in the theme of Exodus and the spiritual wilderness. In describing the Prayer Walk that we made in "tribes" on the Sunday morning, I mentioned the book The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. Although we didn't make explicit reference to this parable of the Christian journey during the camp itself, the themes of this book were definitely in our thinking as we planned the prayer experience. That's why I summarised the story in the last blogpost. This week I will take us a step further by describing some of the stations the tribes visited as they spent an hour walking outdoors and listening to God. Ideally we would have got everyone to do the stations in the same order, but time and space didn't allow that, so two tribes started at each focus point and then moved on at ten minutes intervals, till all six sites had been visited. Here I will describe the order in which we had conceptualised them, acknowledging that some people had to do it differently.

Before the Sunday Prayer Walk, three important things had already happened:
  1. On Saturday morning, the tribes (a mixture of adults and children, and named for the twelve tribes of Israel) had met as a group, introduced themselves with some icebreaker questions, and then made a tribal banner together.
  2. That afternoon they had participated in some rowdy tabloid sports in groups of two tribes.
  3. On Sunday morning after some sung worship (eg we learned Desert Song), they had been tasked with making a garbage sculpture of a giant out of recyclable materials and to give some thought to what giants we face today.
After morning tea, the two-tribe coalitions of the previous day had embarked on their journey round the Marsden Bay property together. The first station was at the bunkrooms, and was called "What's in your Pack?"

The key Scripture from the Wilderness theme here was Exodus 12: 11These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the LORD’s Passover.” The Israelites were to eat their last evening meal in Egypt “in haste,” and “dressed to travel”, so they could quickly begin to make their way out during the night. Before they left, they asked their neighbours for gifts of silver and gold, which their neighbours gladly gave, so these slaves who had brought disaster (the plagues) would leave and never return. “The people grabbed their bread dough before it had risen, bundled their bread bowls in their cloaks and threw them over their shoulders. (v 34) They were leaving their homes, taking only the possessions they could carry. The whole nation, maybe 2 million people, were travelling on foot into the unknown. Discussion followed about leaving in a hurry (to hospital, emergency plane flight) ,what feelings occur and what we might have pack to take.

Everyone had been asked to bring a day pack, and the leader got them to look in these to see what was inside. Some were empty ("you didn't tell us to bring anything...") while others had useful items like water bottle, sunscreen, hat, notebook, glasses etc. This led into a discussion about what we need for the spiritual journey. I wasn't at the stations other than my own - number three - so I don't know how the leader handled it exactly, but I do know they talked together about trust, hope, faith, prayer, and Scripture, and each received a Bible reading booklet to take home.

One idea we considered using but decided to forgo was the character Dora the Explorer. This is a Nickelodeon show I am forced to watch several times a week, because my two granddaughters (aged two) are infatuated with Dora and her friends. It is an educational show and the girls have learned a lot from it, such as how to count to 20 in Spanish! Dora carries a purple backpack everywhere, and whenever she faces a problem or challenge, she sings the Backpack song and various possible solutions jump out and dance around. The watching children are given time to choose which one - say a rope or sticky tape - will be the most help. Then Dora gets "the Map" out of a side pocket and - with another jingle of course - the Map is utilised to sketch out the journey she, and Boots the Monkey, will have to take to solve the problem and find the pirates' treasure, or the lost baby bear's parents, or the ice cream truck etc etc. For families who know the character well, it provides a ready metaphor for the Jesus-follower. But I guess I will have to save that one for another time.

As I explained already, the parable of the Dream Giver, about our finding God’s unique and individual purpose, also offers a useful metaphor. I have used this one a couple of times in past sermons, because Ordinary left the land of Familiar on his journey into the unknown, he took a suitcase full of stuff with him. That case full of the "usual stuff" was gradually emptied out as Ordinary trudged across the desert in search of his dream. The Usual Stuff wasn’t enough and he decided to leave the case behind, a bit like Levi in the New Testament, who left everything to follow Jesus. Instead the pilgrim put on a make-shift knapsack and carried on towards his dream – his destiny. Its worth asking, what sort of baggage do I carry round with me on the journey of life? Is it stuff I really need, or is it material goods and emotional props that bolster my self-confidence in an unhealthy way? Later, when he had to face fierce opposition, Ordinary realised that the Dream Giver had provided him with powerful Truths that helped him defeat his enemies.

What are the abiding truths we as Christian believers need to carry in our knapsack on the journey of life? One useful answer comes from the notion of worldviews, the different presuppositions people hold and on which they base their actions. A worldview means "The composite set of presuppositions, beliefs, and values that shape how a person sees reality and determines how he or she will act." All people, whether they are aware of it or not, have a collective set of fundamental convictions that influence their answers to the big questions of life. I can't remember where I read this - maybe in Rick Warren? - but there are five main themes that are determined by our worldview.
• Origins
• Identity
• Purpose
• Morality
• and Destiny.
Most people today base their decisions on a relativistic world view, one which says truth is what works for me, and as long as I don’t hurt anyone else I can do what I like. The answers to these really important questions - sometimes called the first order questions of life - are quite different if we approach life from a Christian worldview. We believe in a divine Creator and a purposeful creation. We believe we are loved and valued by God, and that we have a future and a hope. We believe there is a right and wrong, and that at the end of time we will be accountable for our ethical choices, and how we have used the gifts and calling of God. In taking this perspective, we are swimming against the tide, but as followers of Jesus we are called to hold fast to the different answers that we find in the Christian faith.

These are the truths we need to pack in our knapsacks to equip us for the journey , as we strive to overcome the obstacles and opponents that confront us on our own pilgrimage of faith. Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday, when many of us will recount or reenact the sorry events of Holy Week. For our church, it is also the day of the funeral of a wonderful young husband and father killed in a tragic road accident last Thursday. Sad stories both, but praise God, we already know the God-purposed end of the story, and that assures us of a future AND a hope.

Next week: Who's travelling with you?

Lord let me be what you want me to be
Lord let me know how your love sets me free
Lord let me walk in the path you have planned
the path that you have for me.
People expect me to walk in their way
People expect me to say what they say
Give me the insight to know what is right
and to seek you through all my days.
Lord if I turn to the left or the right
Lord if I walk through the darkest of nights
Guide me and teach me to always depend
on your love that surrounds me.
Source unknown.