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Journeying





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Journeying 

Psalm 121 is known as a Psalm of Ascents, or a Pilgrimage Psalm. It's a Journeying Psalm, that the Israelites sang as they travelled up to Jerusalem for their 4 major festivals every year. As you read it, try to imagine that you are on a journey…  

I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains. He won't let you stumble, your Guardian God won't fall asleep. Israel's Guardian will never doze or sleep. God's your Guardian, right at your side to protect you-- Shielding you from sun-stroke, sheltering you from moon-stroke. God guards you from every evil, he guards your very life. He guards you when you leave and when you return, he guards you now, he guards you always. Psalm 121(Trans: The Message)  


Have we have lost the art of journeying now that we can get to almost anywhere in the world in just a few hours ?We get annoyed if our train is 10 minutes late arriving, or our plane is an hour late leaving. Gone are the journeys lasting months or even years. We are so anxious to get to our destination, and start our holiday, or conference, or meet whoever we are going to see, or whatever - that we forget that the journey is an important part of the whole trip, and too often we don't take time to really experience or enjoy it.  

The Bible is a book of many journeys, long and short, spiritual and physical. Think about some of those journeys: The Israelites - wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. Abraham - at 75, called by God to pack up his home and family, and journey into the unknown. When Isaac was born 25 years later, they were still on that journey. Or Noah - whose journey included an ark, a flood, and the destruction of everything he knew. Or Jonah and a whale. Or Paul and the Damascus road. Or two disciples hurrying home from Jerusalem, and the Emmaus road. Or Mary and Joseph, travelling from Nazareth to Bethlehem - we skip past that journey of some 70 miles, as though it was nothing, and to us it probably is nothing. We'd say about an hour in the car depending on traffic jams and speed cameras ! But how long would it take a young man to walk that far ? Or a 9 months pregnant woman ? Or what about their journey to Egypt - a distance of some 350 miles. 

What if each one had only focussed on their destination and ignored the journey - although, how do you ignore a journey lasting 25 years, or 40 years, or 350-miles, all on foot ? 

Jesus was focussed on his destination, but not so much that he missed the journey. Early on in the gospels, he tells his disciples that he has to go to Jerusalem, but he didn't go that day, or even the next. In fact, most of his public ministry - time spent teaching, healing and meeting people - seems to have taken place between telling his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem, and actually getting there. 

I think there is something important for us in that - often we can be so focussed on our destination, whether that's our goals, our deadlines, or wherever we're heading, that we can miss the journey. We don't take time to see what is going on around us. Maybe that means making a detour, or making time for someone, or getting involved in what's going on around us. Although, rather than these being distractions or detours, I suspect that Jesus would probably have seen all of these things as just part of his journey. 

A few years ago I spent a couple of weeks visiting some of Scotland's castles. The first day I headed off with my carefully planned routes, and maps. But it's not easy navigating and driving at the same time, and I got lost. Next day I set out again, and got lost again. After a few days like this, I was getting very cross at always lost in the middle of nowhere, until eventually, I realised that when I was lost, I was seeing the most wonderful scenery. After that I did two things - I got a mobile phone, in case of problems miles from anywhere, and I started enjoying the journeys. By the end of my time, I'd seen a lot of castles, and also a lot of Scotland. The journeys, which were originally just the way to my destinations, became an enjoyable part of my holiday, and I got far more out of my holiday than I expected. 

Lent is seen as a time of journeying and preparation in the Christian year. As we move through Lent, and towards Holy Week and Easter, we must take care not to miss the events of Holy Week. They are vital if we are going to be able to really appreciate Easter. After all, there wouldn't be Easter if there had been no Good Friday.  

When we take time to look around, and really see and experience our journey, then we will find that God is with us, right there where we are now. He's not waiting for us at some distant point ahead, that we need to reach as soon as possible. He is "God with us" and he always journeys with us. Of course, that doesn't mean our destination is not important, but it does mean that the journey is important too. We can't reach our destination without first making the journey. So let's try not to be so focussed on our destination that we miss the journey - whether it's a spiritual one or physical one.  

What might we be missing by ignoring the journey and focussing only on our destination ? 

 Ruth Gilett, Reflective Worship

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