Mar 15, 2013

The Journey

image by Zach Ennis via CreationSwap

As we move toward Holy Week, we travel in faith toward becoming the people God created us to be. This is our “end game” and perhaps God’s as well. What do preachers and lay folk as leaders have to do with this journey? Below is part of an interview with my favorite preacher, Dr. Fred Craddock who helped me with my graduate work.
We today, no less than those biblical leaders of old, God charges with the obligation to lead God’s people on a expedition of faith. The journey or a pilgrimage is but one metaphor for the Christian life. It remains as potent today as it was for our forebears.

Many knowledgeable commentators on church life have noted the power in the “pilgrim” or “sojourning” image for the Christian faith. For example, in a Christian Theological Seminary interview with Dr. Fred Craddock, an interviewer remarked, “You talked a little bit about metaphor this morning and you probably indicted most of us in a nice sort of way to say that the most common metaphor used in American preaching is ‘journey.’ ” The interviewer then asked Dr. Craddock, “What’s your most common [preaching] metaphor?”

Craddock replied, “Well, I think probably that’s it [the journey metaphor]. That’s it. I think the reason that “journey” or “pilgrimage,” biblically, non-biblically, Western literature, Eastern literature, someone setting out on a journey, or the teaching of Jesus—“broad is the way, narrow is the way,” the language of America—‘I’ve come to a dead end;’ ‘Well, I’ve hit a detour’—we all use that language. It is flexible enough, it’s true enough, it’s experiential enough, that I think is has worked for us for a long time. I think it’s probably still very useful.

My point today was for us not to just take from it but accept that. That’s my best metaphor. And therefore be richer with it, more intentional with it. I think it’s great. I certainly prefer the “pilgrimage” or the “journey” to what I’m meeting now in southern Appalachia back in the mountain is that, they don’t call it this but I do, the ‘script metaphor’—‘Her time had come;’ ‘Well, if it were meant to be.’ I call that the ‘script metaphor.’ That there’s a prescript for everybody’s life—‘Well, if it was her time there was nothing the doctors could do anyway’—that kind of fatal fixity. I prefer the “journey” to that . . .” (Walter Scott Society Tape Service, tape # 51, February 1996).
Thus, for preachers and leaders the journey metaphor is an apt one for leadership today as it has always been as received from our biblical tradition. And as Christian believers, I believe we are leaders of people. The journey from Ash Wednesday to Holy Week is an important one. May we appreciate this Irish Blessing:

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rains fall soft upon your fields,
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.
(Traditional Irish Blessing; origin unknown, although some attribute it to St. Patrick)

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