Monday, September 1, 2008

The Center is the Wilderness - A Journey of Faith

When something really big happens, you need time to make sense of it - to put it in perspective. When the event is trauma or grief, we call this stage denial. The same dynamic is in play with something unexpectedly joyful. Suppose you were to win the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes? It's the reason people don't remember much of the events of their wedding day.

St. Paul, as recounted in the book of Acts, had a mystical experience on the road to Damascus that turned his life around. It changed him from a persecutor of the young Christian movement to one of its chief representatives. He was blinded by the light -- literally blinded as the result of a mystical encounter with the risen Christ. Paul was then befriended by one of the very Christians he was on his way to arrest. He was healed of physical and spiritual blindness, baptized as a follower of Jesus, then went home to Tarsus where he worked as a tentmaker for many years. He needed time to make sense of his experience and stayed there until God, in the person of a man named Barnabas, came to get him to begin his ministry.

Jesus had mystical experiences. His intimate relationship with God and his knowledge of God's nature is indicative of mystical experience. When he came up out the baptismal waters, from John the Baptist, Jesus experienced a clarification of his identity. The Gospels describe this experience by saying that the heavens opened up and Jesus heard God say, "This is my son, the beloved."

Jesus found in the baptismal waters, and even more deeply in his wilderness struggle, that he was a person of incredible value with the power, potential, and presence of the Spirit enabling us to change the world in partnership with God. What Jesus did is exactly what God invites us to do. Bring your questions, what challenges or may confuse you. Bring your wisdom and all of who you are. We are on a journey into the wilderness to discover who we are, who we can be, and what we can do.

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