All posts by Victoria

The Long and Winding Road, by Victoria Logue

The long and winding road that leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before it always leads me here
Leads me to your door

I have spent the past couple of weeks continuing to muse on the road theme. A multitude of songs came to mind, including the song by The Beatles above. It’s amazing how many love songs can easily be addressed to God, as well. No doubt, that is the reason why Bernard of Clairvaux made the same connection with the Song of Songs. But, the above song seemed more fitting to my thoughts as I see it as yet another version of the wilderness road. In other words, the road to God is never easy.

This year, instead of doing the daily lectionary readings, my husband, Frank, and I decided instead to read the Bible in a year: the entire Bible, not just the sections chosen for us. We are now well into Isaiah with its prevalent imagery of wilderness and paths, and, reflecting back on Biblical history from Genesis through Isaiah, I realized that keeping creation focused on the Almighty had been a full time job for God and his prophets.The number of Asherah poles, alone, that were raised and thrown down is staggering.

Humans are exceedingly difficult to keep focused. This was something of which Jesus was acutely aware when he began his teaching. Thus the Parable of the Sower: the majority of the seed dies in one way or another. Only a quarter of the seed sown falls on good soil.

So, are we really surprised that the number of people in the pews has fallen? Has anything really changed? Even post Constantine, it has been a continual battle to keep people focused on God. From the desert monks to Benedict of Nursia to Francis of Assisi to Martin Luther and so on and so forth, those who believe are constantly looking for a way to “rebuild” the church, to call people back to God.

And yet, we continually create churches that push people away from God. We create the impression that the most important things are the number of people filling the pews not to mention asking those who attend to give as much as possible of their money and time.

In the Christendom era, church became a duty, a respectable “social” club. Where did that leave actual conversion? When people were baptized in the early church, it was possible that this act alone could lead to their death in a persecuation by the Roman Empire. Baptism in that setting was a serious commitment, a life changing event. Where once people were drawn to Christianity because of how different its followers were, now we go to extremes to try to prove how mainstream we really are.

Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

We attempt to gloss over the harsher things Jesus said in order not to frighten people off. And while I believe in a loving and compassionate God, I also believe Jesus meant it when he said, “The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:

‘You will indeed listen, but never understand,
and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn–and I would heal them.’

So, the real questions are, if we want to partner with what God is doing in the world:

  • How do we open their eyes? Their ears?
  • How do we convince these distressed and distracted people that taking the long and winding road is really worth the effort?

The wild and windy night that the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears crying for the day
Why leave me standing here, let me know the way
Many times I’ve been alone and many times I’ve cried
Anyway you’ll never know the many ways I’ve tried
And still they lead me back to the long and winding road

The Wilderness Road, by Victoria Logue

Serapion the Sindonite traveled once on a pilgrimage to Rome. Here he was told of a celebrated recluse, a woman who lived always in one small room, never going out. Skeptical about her way of life—for he himself was a great wanderer—Serapion called on her and asked, “Why are you sitting here?” To which she replied, “I am not sitting. I am on a journey.”

I’m not sure why that little piece of desert wisdom appeals to me but I believe it is because the word, journey, has always held such strong connotations for me. And, despite the fact that I spent six months backpacking from Georgia to Maine, I can also easily see that a journey can be taken while sitting quietly in one small room.

In the weeks leading up to the 77th General Convention, interest arose among three bloggers for The Episcopal Church to experience an Acts 8 moment. The deacon Stephen is martyred at the end of the seventh chapter of Acts. The eighth chapter is what follows as the Holy Spirit thrusts the church in crisis forward into mission. It’s an in breaking of the Holy Spirit. Those interested in taking time to pray and discern God’s will for the church met a couple of times to toss around some ideas for the types of things that could be done: praying together, Bible studies and dreaming about what the church can be, among other things.

During the second meeting, just before Convention ended, our Bible study centered on Acts 8:26 through the end of the chapter. As Susan Snook began to read, my attention was caught immediately: “Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a wilderness road.)”

Why, I wondered, did Luke find it necessary to point out that Philip was instructed by the angel to travel a wilderness road? My first thought was to compare a wilderness road (or path) to an interstate highway. In the wilderness, one must be constantly alert: the road can be rocky and uneven; snakes, lizards and other wild creatures are often present; there are no clear exit signs to mark where one might need to turn; there are no rest areas with their usual amenities.

Philip, naturally, would have been prepared for this. And perhaps that is why, despite all the obstacles, the early church grew. The Apostles knew they had to be on the lookout for every possible opportunity to spread the Gospel. So, when Philip met an Ethiopian eunuch who happened to be on a spiritual as well as physical journey, and on a wilderness road no less, he gladly accepted the opportunity to share the Gospel.

Have we traded the wilderness road for the interstate highway, breezing by all the “Ethiopian eunuchs” out there just waiting to have scripture explained to them? We’ve grown so accustomed to the way things are done that we’ve lost our way on The Way.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible notes that “get up and go toward the south” could also mean “get up and go at noon.” I am sure it is not a coincidence that in the very next chapter of Acts that Saul, also on a journey, has his first mystical experience with Christ. And like Philip, who opens up the Gospel to someone who, prior to Jesus, would not have been allowed to become a proselyte, Saul brings the Gospel to the gentiles.

It is my belief that in order to renew the church, we must return to the wilderness road. It is time to pull ourselves out of the “that is the way it has always been done” rut we have fallen into and actually begin to look at the road ahead of us.

I don’t have answers at this point, so much as questions:

  • How might we leave behind the comfort of well-worn paths for the excitement, energy and promise found on the wilderness road?
  • How might we put ourselves in a place to once more come in contact with the Ethiopian eunuch of today?
  • What is preventing us from rising to the challenge of this new Acts 8 Moment?

-Victoria Logue