The first part of a talk on Waymarks given by Trevor Miller.
An important lesson for us as a Community is well captured in the prayer towards the end of our Brendan Liturgy, ‘Lord, I will trust You, help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown. Give me the faith to leave old ways and break fresh ground with You. I will believe You for my future, chapter by chapter, until all the story is written’.
This awareness that the story of our Community is still being written, so that new chapters are an inevitable and essential part of the story in progress: yet also realising that they don’t replace or negate the old chapters because both old and new are vital parts of our ongoing life. To understand that we need to grasp the familiar in order to go beyond it: we take hold of the known so as to enter the unknown, and, as a result, our Community needs both story-keepers and story-makers existing in tandem.
Let me try to explain! Unlike the journey across the Pilgrim Way to Holy Island where the way-marks are numerous and the way clear, the spiritual journey is often ‘a journey without maps’. Time and again, we have to carefully plot a course, not always knowing if it is the right path. In Jeremiah 31:21 God says to the pilgrim people, wandering in exile, ‘Set up road markers’; as you journey ‘make your self guide posts’, turn your thoughts to the way you went, so that if needed you can retrace your steps. They were to build pillars, leave poles and stones to mark their way so that unlike Hansel and Gretel the birds wouldn’t eat up their markers, so they could find their way back on course.
As Companions and Friends, as Community Groups, we need way-marks;
1] because all pilgrims are tempted from time-to-time to take an easier path, or a more exciting alternative route or equally, to remain stagnant on the known familiar path even when called to pioneer new ways. And
2] because nothing is static, everything is moving since it is life actually being lived, it is pilgrimage, people on a journey. The Kaleidoscope of life brings change with every turn but we recognize that all the different patterns emerging are in fact made up of the very same pieces – our DNA!
What are the pieces that are a constant for us? At what point do we need to stop and take the opportunity to retrace our steps, and look for these way-marks, as Jeremiah 6:16 ‘Ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it’. We need to be aware that as a Community now into 3rd generation there are peculiar dangers, one of which is illustrated by the following story.
A very devout Christian developed a discipline of spending several minutes each morning in prayer and reading the scriptures in his bedroom. As time went by, this pattern became increasingly meaningful and life-giving to him. Now he owned a cat, and during his devotions the cat rubbed itself against him, purring loudly, which spoiled his concentration. So he found a solution, he put a collar on the cat and attached a lead to the collar so that during the devotions he could tie the cat to the bedpost. The result was that the cat was happy, (curled up and contented) and he was happy because he could concentrate on his prayers and meditation. Over the years, his daughter (having seen how much this meant to her Dad) followed his example of daily devotions for herself. However, time now moved much faster than her Dad’s generation and she found that she couldn’t give as much time as he had done, but in the brief moments she did have, she dutifully tied the family cat to the bedpost as she prayed, as her Father had done before her. Now the day came when her son grew up and he wanted to preserve the family tradition of both his Mum and his Granddad, but the pace of life had quickened even more, so that there was no time left at all for prayer or reading the Scriptures but each day, while he was dressing, he tied the family cat to the bedpost.
Humorous but challenging, illustrating the difference between tradition and traditionalism. The 1st, tradition is good – keeping alive the life lived by others, the baton passed on, taken up, lived today. The 2nd, traditionalism is the opposite, not the living faith of those now dead/past, but the dead faith of those still living. It’s bad because it involves a loss of meaning & a loss of memory – we no longer know why we do what we do and why it was significant.
As a Community we need to hold to tradition without falling into traditionalism. So we must ever be alert to discerning the difference. One polarisation is that of a Legalism that holds on tight to no change; acting as if the ‘Foundation of old’ is the whole building.
The opposite polarisation is that of License, which lets go of everything through all change and is only interested in ‘building the new’. We need a middle road of Liberty that draws the best from the other two: holding strong convictions yet open to change, so that ‘building the new on foundations of old’ is in harmony. This means we can acknowledge and bless one another’s diverse journeys.
Waymarks for Community and Community Groups Part 2
Waymarks for Community and Community Groups Part 3