Vision Quest

Vision QuestScripture Text:  John 12: 20-33

 20Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. 27“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

 

In some Native American cultures, a vision quest is a rite of passage, a time of coming of age. In many tribes, a vision quest requires that a person spend at least four to five days secluded in nature, in the wilderness, so to speak. During that time, the person participates in what is characterized as deep spiritual communion. It is a time of transition, perhaps of “finding oneself”. It is a time of finding one’s direction, a turning toward who one is supposed to be.

 

We know this Scripture passage well. It is the point where Jesus metaphorically, if not literally, turns toward the Cross. It is the point where Jesus begins walking and beckons others to follow, to let go of all to which they are holding and follow. But I think I have often sort of skipped over the first two verses. What an odd interplay. Greeks, outsiders, come to worship at the festival. Now I guess you could assume that they were Jewish if they were coming to worship. But they are still not part of Jesus’ inner circle. And they head right up to Philip. The passage makes it clear that Philip, too, was on some level an “outsider”. He was from Bethsaida, the “house of fishing”, the place on the Galilean Lake where Jesus had probably called him to follow, along with some of the other disciples. And to Philip, the Greek questors make their request: “We wish to see Jesus.”

 

On the surface, it is a simple enough request. But when you consider that they were Greeks, accustomed to knowledge and learning, probably used to the more pragmatic way of looking at things, the notion of “seeing” Jesus is interesting. And there is no answer given. Jesus goes right into laying out what is about to happen. Maybe the idea is that wishing to see is a way of seeing, that desiring to be close to Jesus brings one closer, that one’s awakening to Jesus’ Passion is what brings one into it.

 

What if this season of Lent became our vision quest? What if here in the wilderness that leads to the Cross, where our plans go awry and we are at the mercy of circumstances that we cannot seem to control to our liking, we see life, we see Jesus, we see ourselves in a different way? What would it mean here, in a place to which we are unaccustomed, we were to ask to see Jesus—not just assume that Jesus is there, not just walk through Passion and Holy Week the way we always have, but to truly, in the deepest part of our being, desire to see Jesus, to know Jesus (not the Jesus that picks us up, not the Jesus who we like to call our brother or our friend or whatever word implies a close friendship, but the Jesus who has turned and walked away toward the Cross and now beckons us to follow.)? Now is the time. Now is the time for your own vision quest.

 

Every question in life is an invitation to live with a touch more depth, a breath more meaning. (Joan Chittister)

FOR TODAY:  Go on a vision quest.  Learn to see anew.  Wish, in the deepest part of your being, to see Jesus—not the one that you’ve been so comfortable seeing, but the one who beckons to you to follow.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Be Thou My Vision

Celtic CrossScripture Text: John 1: 1-5

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

 

Well, just because we’re wandering in the wilderness does not mean that we are not allowed to paint ourselves green and celebrate with good ole’ St. Patrick. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Because even those of us who are in traditions where we honor few feast days of Saints get in on this one! Now, admittedly, most of us don’t even know much about Patrick or his tradition, save a few legends about snakes and stuff.  Patrick was said to have been born Maewyn Succat (Lat., Magonus Succetus) in Roman Britain in the late 4th century.  When he was sixteen, he was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family.  He wrote that his faith grew in captivity and he prayed daily.  The story is told that one day Patrick heard a voice saying “your ship is ready” and took it to mean that it was time to return home.  Fleeing his master, he traveled to a port two hundred miles away, found a ship, and sailed home.  He entered the church and later returned to Ireland as a missionary.  By the eighth century, he had become one of the patron saints of Ireland.

 

Patrick’s life, like his Celtic tradition, is based on pilgrimage.  Life in this tradition is about growing and moving and not “pitching our tent” in one place too long.  It is about connecting to all of Creation, about honoring and revering all as sacred.  It is about treating all of life sacramentally, embracing it as a gift from God and a way to God.  Embracing the Celtic spirit means going on a journey, open to moving from one place to another, one thought to another, one way of seeing to another.  In the midst of this journey, Celtic spirituality recognizes the importance of crossing places, seeing them as thresholds of growth.  These places are truly looked upon as sacred spaces.

 

I love the Celtic tradition. It has fed me spiritually for some time.  It’s probably a little wilder than that to which most of us are accustomed. Deborah Cronin characterized is as “a bit on the edge”. Rather than shunning the pagan belief that they inherited, they brought Christianity into it, letting the two traditions enter into a holy conversation. In fact, the Celtic Christians, without the limitations imposed by the Roman church, embraced even those considered “heretics” as part of their faith. So their version of the Christian tradition was “broadened” a bit beyond the traditional claims. See, history tells us that the Roman Empire never made it to Ireland, leaving the green isle just beyond the control of both the emperor and the authorities of early Christianity as most of us know it. So Ireland and the other islands that claimed this Celtic strain of belief, birthed a Christian experience somewhat removed both geographically and theologically from mainland Europe. It is Christianity mingled with, but not compromised by, the finest aspects of pagan Celtism, those that found resonance with Christian symbols and understanding. For Celtic Christians the experience of vision is a tangible way of seeing what God has done and then seeing it through God’s creative eyes, followed by seeing the life-giving possibilities God sees. Not overly concerned with ecclesiastical matters, the Celtic Way is instead expressed through the beauty of art and symbols, the richness of prayers and poetry, and an understanding of the sacredness of all of Creation.

 

What would our faith look like if we understood all Creation as sacred? What would our beliefs be if we allowed them to grow beyond what tradition has handed us? What would our lives look like if saw everything as “of God”, as a way that God is perhaps speaking to us, maybe leading us down a different path? What would our journey be if we became connected to more than what we know, more than what we see? What would it mean to live our lives “a bit on the edge”, in liminality (“betwixt and between”), as the Celts would have called it, on a threshold between what we know and what we don’t, between what we see and what has yet to be revealed to us, between what is true and what is Truth? In this season of Lent, we are called to open our thoughts, open our hearts to the way that God is leading us. We are called not just to see what is obvious but to let God be our Vision, our way of seeing, to enter the Sacred with new eyes and a new heart. Maybe we will find that the way out of this wilderness is not by exiting it but by beginning to see it differently, as a way filled with sacredness and wonder, as a Way of God.  

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=celtic+be+thou+my+vision&qpvt=celtic+be+thou+my+vision&FORM=VDRE#view=detail&mid=8DB7AEBD8FDE0203321C8DB7AEBD8FDE0203321C

 

Human beings may separate things into as many piles as we wish—separating spirit from flesh, sacred from secular, church from world. But we should not be surprised when God does not recognize the distinctions we make between the two. Earth is so thick with divine possibility that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars. (Barbara Brown Taylor)

 

FOR TODAY: Close your eyes and imagine God as your Vision. Open your eyes and behold the Sacred in everything…And THEN paint yourself green and do whatever you do to celebrate St. Patty’s Day!

 

Rath De ‘ort (Gaelic, pronounced Rah Day urt, “The Grace of God on you.”)

 

Shelli