I’m part of a Tuesday morning ecumenical study group, and the other day we spent time with Isaiah 2.2-5:
2:2 In days to come
the mountain of the LORD’S house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
3 Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
Laying plowshares and pruning hooks aside, what struck us were words like come and walk. You can’t come to some place unless you leave the place you are in. You can’t live in faith by resting in it. You have to walk in it. Walking always means leaving the place where you were as you go to the place at which you have not yet arrived. Each step brings you to a new place along the way where you will remain for only a moment because it is not the place where you are going. The psalmist begs us to “be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46). In a curious way, we can be still only by walking – leaving, arriving, and leaving again – in the stillness of quiet confidence that we are waking in the way of the LORD.
It’s frustrating. My confidence that I am walking in the way of the LORD is not all that great. For me, stillness is a call to stop walking. Just sit and be. Let the world go by. Get out of the parade. If I have to move, I want to look around for a moving sidewalk, escalator, taxi, whatever, anything to take the work out of it. On the whole, I’d rather stay put. I mean, it’s one thing to enjoy traveling to foreign lands and exotic places, always knowing that I will return home. It’s another thing to walk in the way of the LORD knowing that I can’t stop walking, will never return to where I started, and have no idea when I will get to wherever I am going, which, I am told, is my true home, but I have to trust that it is so. Prayerful meditation is not a big help. It always ends up with me being somewhere other that where I started. God, it seems, has a puckish sense of humor so that even when I remain anchored in the reading chair of my study, where I thought I was when I began prayerful meditation is not where I am when I rise to go out to the kitchen.
When Jesus said “follow me,” he meant get up, start walking, and leave where you are behind. A number of people I know don’t like that at all. The world is unpredictable enough as it is. They want a Christian faith that is set, doesn’t change, doesn’t further upset the tenuous balance of life they have to live with anyway. If there is a difference, maybe it’s the difference between believers and disciples. Believers are content to sit where they are, acknowledge Jesus as he passes by, and hope he comes back again soon. In the meantime, they’re not moving. Disciples follow Jesus, never staying in one place for long, unsure of where they are going, but certain that by following Jesus they are going in the right way. Some days I’m a believer. Some days I’m a disciple. Mostly I wish Jesus had handed out AAA Triptiks.