“John the Baptizer came and did not eat the usual food or drink wine. And you say, ‘He has a demon inside him.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking. And you say, ‘Look at him! He eats too much and drinks too much wine! He is a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by those who accept it.”Luke 7:33-35
This morning I want to take y’all back up on the mountain with me. I know it’s been a frequent theme recently, but I keep thinking about being “up close and personal” with God and I believe it’s important enough to keep talking about
At breakfast, Rebekah and I are reading a series of meditations based on the writings of 14th Century Christian mystic Julian of Norwich. She lived in permanent seclusion as an “anchoress”, confined to a cell built into a church wall. Some of her thinking is a bit hard to swallow, but there is no denying the authenticity of her spiritual experience, and in particular her closeness to and love of God.
Julian believed that her suffering (she had a difficult life to say the least) helped to clarify her awareness of and relationship to God. She saw physical comfort and pleasures as a distraction.
Her point of view is fairly common among mystics and ascetics. The teaching gets very close, in my estimation, to gnosticism – the belief that physical, or corporeal (anything related to the body and the created world), is bad, and that pure spirituality is the only good.
But the truth about Jesus is that he was both fully God and fully human, that his physical body was as real as his spiritual nature. God created this world for us to both live in and to enjoy.
Fact is, Jesus was criticized because he was someone who enjoyed a good dinner party; food, drink, and the company of friends: “Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber” (KJV). Jesus celebrated his oneness with God in and through every aspect of his living.
However, Jesus also understood that it was important at times to take extraordinary measures, and we can read of him praying with a unique intensity, worshipping at the temple, going to quiet places to meditate, spending time in the wilderness, and even fasting.
It’s like I tell audiences when relaying the story of my own accent at Mt. Sinai:
“It’s not that God is less real, or unavailable when I’m sitting on a lounge chair with a coffee by the fire in my living room; it’s more that – sometimes – the intention of a deliberate pilgrim journey (getting up at 1:00 in the morning before hiking to St. Catherine’s Monastery at 2:00, negotiating with Bedouin herders for a camel, riding precipitous narrow paths in freezing temps and pitch blackness, leaving the camel to climb more dangerous paths on foot, emerging on the summit and waiting for dawn to break in order to see the most amazing sunrise of my life and – palpably – to literally feel the presence of God in that moment…) is something God asks for.”Destination God
Sometimes God asks for our intention in order to secure our attention. My deliberate seeking is often part of what Peterson calls “a long obedience in the same direction”.
Right now we are in the very middle of Lent. I know God is with me, that is always true; but there is something important in this season that asks more of my focus, more of my discipline, more of my wanting.
This is our journey to Jerusalem – DEREK