Tag Archives: spiritual journey

Canoe Journey Begins

This morning I start a four-day canoe trip in the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness with my son and nine other men from Resurrection Lutheran Church. It will be journey not only through the beautiful wilderness of northern Minnesota, but also a spiritual journey into the wonder of God’s grace.

The image of journey or pilgrimage has deep roots in the Christian tradition. A person starts in one place, travels to another, and then returns to the starting point. The person make look the same, but the journey has transformed him or her.

The Biblical narrative is filled with journey stories from Abraham and Sarah to the Exile in Babylon. The life of Jesus is primarily a journey. Each Gospel records how Jesus’ ministry begins in northern Galilee but eventually he heads south to Jerusalem to the cross and empty tomb.

The Gospel of Luke perhaps takes this image most seriously. Mary travels through the hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth after the angel Gabriel’s visit (Luke 1:39). Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem for Jesus’ birth and then to the temple in Jerusalem for his dedication (Luke 2). As a boy Jesus makes the pilgrimage to the Passover Festival in Jerusalem where he is lost for three days. (An excellent post on this story here).

As an adult Jesus’ ministry is a journey from town to town and across the Sea of Galilee. Two of my favorite parables from Luke focus on people who travel—the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) and the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). Jesus sends his disciples on not one, but two training missions (Luke 9, 10). After his resurrection Jesus meets two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24). The final scene in Luke is Jesus leading his disciples out as far as Bethany for his ascension. (I will only mention that the Book of Acts, written also by Luke, contains more journey stories.)

I do not know how or where God will encounter our two canoe groups, but I am confident that through the journey, the Spirit of God will be working to transform us into his glorious image. I’ll let you know when we return.

Lord Jesus, may we walk, canoe, run, move, dance, play, work, serve with you today.

Shepherd or Magi?

I was struck today on the similar yet distinctive reactions of the shepherds and the magi to Jesus’ birth.  While both are notified by heavenly objects – angels for the shepherds, a star for the magi – and both respond with joy by searching for the baby, their response has some sharp contrasts. The shepherds leave their flock that very night and immediately go in search of the baby (Luke 2:15-17).  Of course, Jesus is in their local community and they share the news with all.  Meanwhile it takes the magi up to two years to plan and accomplish their journey to Bethlehem (Matthew 2: 1-12).

Shepherd?

I think the two reactions help us understand how many of us respond to the good news of Jesus Christ.  Some of us respond immediately to the message of God’s love and embrace it with all joy at the outset.  We see Jesus in our neighborhood and we respond right away.  We always sense that Jesus is close by.   I would place myself in this camp.  I grew up knowing Jesus as my Lord.

Or Magi?

Others need more time, more thought, and the journey is much longer.   In a metaphorical way, they have to leave their own country to find Jesus in a new land.   But when they do, they embrace him fully as their King.  The journey and the encounter has changed them.  The author Frederick Buechner describes such a spiritual odyssey in his book, The Sacred Journey (1982).   

Neither the response of the shepherds nor the response of the magi is better or preferred.  God uses a vast array of messengers, visions, experiences, relationships and ideas to call us to himself.  I delight in the wonder of each path and journey.

Would you describe yourself as a shepherd, a magi or some other character in the Christmas story?