4 Stars Out Of 5
The Sacred Journey is worth the read
October 31, 2011
I recently received a book, that is part of the Ancient Practices Series with Thomas Nelson publishing, titled A Sacred Journey. The book is authored by Charles Foster. I have no past experience with Charles Foster; however, the title seemed to resonate with where I have been 0f late. Over the last year, I have found myself on some unique travels. Also, I have been on the edge of moving to far off places like England, Seattle, and New Zealand, over the last year or so. So I have spent plenty of time living and thinking about the life of adventure. This book has given me a whole new appreciate for the theology of pilgrimage. Charles Foster has clearly spent some time wrestling with words like follow, kingdom movement and wandering. As Foster says, "Yahweh became a man, he was a homeless vagrant. He walked through Palestine proclaiming that a mysterious kingdom had arrived_he fascinated the people on the edge of things: the underdogs, the despised. He wasn't a big hit with the urban establishment." My Jesus is often too suburban and safe, to resemble the God I read in the Bible. Once I picked up this book, I couldnt put it down. It reminded me of how much I have grown in love with stuff, become lazy, and find myself suffocating for something real. However, the book did not stop there. Charles Foster challenges his readers to take Jesus's words, "follow me" very seriously. The book actively inspires me to exercise my faith, take risks, and enjoy the journey. I highly recommend this book. I will share a few of my favourite quotes. However, you may need to read the book to really understand the context.
- "Pilgrimage can give a taste of Christian radicalism. In fact â€˜Christian radicalism' is a tautology: nothing that is not radical is Christian. That takes some grasping. The road can help us grasp it. A stockbroker on pilgrimage for a week will be able to imagine better what it means to leave everything and follow Jesus. He'll be on the fringes of places and the fringes of society, and hence in the heart of the kingdom and the company of its elite. For that week he'll be an ally of Abel, not an enemy. Those little tastes of the kingdom can be addictive."
- "The Reformers lost the war against pilgrimage. You can't root out something so fundamental to human identity. Christians of all denominations and none, and people with nothing other than the compulsion to walk, flock to Taize, Santiago, Rome, and Jerusalem. Their motives are perhaps more mixed, or less well defined, than some of those medieval pilgrims. Many would say that they are going to find â€˜themselves' or â€˜what its all about'_ Not everyone finds what he is looking for, but everyone finds something that he didn't have before and that he needs and wants. Pilgrimage involves doing something with whatever faith you have. And faith, like muscle, likes being worked."
- "I did a trail at my pastorate at Holy Trinity Brompton. Without indicating the source, I wrote down several doze quotations on the subject of pilgrimage culled from most of the main religions. I asked the theologically sophisticated Christian audience to identify the â€˜Christian' ones. They couldn't. They were hopeless. When I told them which was which, they were amused and horrified. A rather intense girl had identified a sixth-century Hindu text as, â€˜oozing the spirit of Jesus' (And who am I to say she was wrong?)"
- "If the blood flow through your heart reduces, you have pain. If it stops moving, you die. If water stops moving, it gets foul. This seems to illustrate a general rule."
- "Throughout the Bible (with a crucial last-minute twist) God hates cities. He is much easier to find in the wilderness. He takes the side of the itinerant shepherd against the factory farmer."
- "The best-traveled people, the ones who have seen the most, are the ones who remain the most capable of seeing the world through the eyes of children. Children's eyes dont have the spiritual cataracts that blir the vision of the worldly-wise. They see color, mystery, and excitement where we see only a parking lot. They are immeasurably richer than we are."
- "The gospels smell of the road as The Odyssey smells of the sea."
- "Pilgrimages do things. The travels of Abraham inked in the covenant and laid the foundations of a nation; the exodus transformed a people and won a land; the Baptist girl at my dinner got a husband, was healed of hay fever, and became a Jesus Freak. Then came the Sermon on the Mount, which is all about the people on the edges - the sort of people you meet, eat with, walk with, bed down, and become if you walk from town to town, but would never see if you drive along the freeway in your air-conditioned limo. By and large the Sermon on the Mount is utterly irrelevant to most modern churches. Our lives, our business, and our mission strategies are constructed very specifically according to precisely the principles so clearly denounced by Jesus. If we had been running his campaign, we'd have thrown money not at lepers, but at management consultants and lobbyists_ And Jesus certainly wouldn't have been allowed to walk. It's dangerous, time-consuming, and sends out all the wrong signals."
- "He loved the road because it honored adn enabled that community. He hated the city because it brutalized and suffocated it. But community itself has been redeemed; relationship has been redeemed. That is the meaning of the new city. It's not that true fellowship of the road can somehow manage to exist within the Holy City; there is nowhere else that it can be what it has always really been. And that is the end of all pilgrimage. There is no other end. â€˜The Spirit and the bride say, â€˜Come.'(Rev. 22:17)'"
- "Shane Claiborne talks about his Christian upbringing in eastern Tennessee. At evangelistic services, there would be the great call to the front; and every year he and his mates would go forward, singing â€˜Just as I am'; and each year, he says, they would leave just as they were. Whatever your fastidious theological doubts about penitential pilgrimages, that never happened to someone who had walked from Paris to Rom in winter, losing toes from frostbite on the St. Bernard Pass, carrying a yoke forged from the club he's used to beat his wife to death."
- "We see the same syndrome again and again in conservative religion. The greater the evidence against its assertions, the greater the zeal with which they are preached, the greater the consequent isolation from the rest of the world, and the greater ease with which the cult members can be protected against the corrupting power of alternative worldviews."
- "The early Christian Celts spoke about â€˜thin places' - places where worlds (I would prefer to say â€˜dimensions') were particularly close to each other. Places where, if you were quiet enough, you could hear the murmurings of God."
- "Go. Don't take much. Don't worry too much about preparing. The journey itself will prepare you for whatever you need to be prepared for."
- "Habitual tourists may be reading this and feeling left out. Good. Sorry, but what you do isn't what we're talking about here. A religious tourist in the holy sites is an invulnerable pilgrim. An invulnerable pilgrim is an oxymoronic creature, like a four-legged biped. Certainly pilgrims can read guidebooks, see the sights, and tick boxes on clipboards; but tourists cant get new eyes while remaining tourists."
- "It's not just pilgrims who make a pilgrimage: it's pilgrims different from you. A pilgrimage is a journey to the ultimate otherness."
- "Pilgrimage is a little pocket of nomadism. Many insecure societies notably the â€˜advanced' ones that have lost their connections with the land, and therefore fear it and its people, feel threatened. They worry that a little focus on pilgrimage might metastasize dangerously into settled life. They are right to worry."
- "The nomadic people of God, if they're on the right road, go from an oasis somewhere in East Africa, Mesopotamia, or the Jungian collective subconscious (depending on your exegetical preferences) through wild and barren places, progressively learning to smile, relate, and serve. And they end up in a city where none of their desert sensibilities are violated, where everything they have learned about self-giving and relationship is used and multiplied and transformed."