Where we are more often than not, likely to think of the work of the spirit in spectacular ways, the real day to day ground work of the spirit is more likely to be found in the most subtle and challenging circumstances of life. This is what I’m calling the ‘Spirit of the trenches’. The Spirit you know you can certainly trust in the most difficult of circumstances.
Today I’m going to take another step along the Christian pilgrimage of life with tough spirit. Today’s reading keeps us focused on this heart and soul journey. If last week we saw the struggle Jesus went through determining the vision of his mission. This week we examine one of the vital safety first attitudes necessary for taking the spiritual journey. It concerns dealing with the booby traps of life, the land mines of the spiritual journey.
To begin with it has a warning because we can get distracted by expriences that don’t really concern spirit well being. I’m wanting to highlight events that may be of the greatest disappointment, which we can get tangled up in if we not careful, but they are not landmines that can spiritually damage us. What am I talking about? Well let’s have some examples…
We heard of the tragedy of the car veering off South Road and killing the father of a student and husband of one of the teachers. We speculate about a particular person being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We hear of a plane crash and wonder about the thousands of people who flew on that day but why these unlucky ones. We hear of an earthquake and in the crumpled debris, many die, but two or three might be found alive even days later.
In Jesus day a bridge collapses and hundreds die. The king slaughters an ethnic group. These tragedies always stir some of the deepest questions in our mind. Were such victims more deserving of such misfortune than others? Did they bring it upon themselves?
Jesus is clear, these are human tragedies but they do not have any moral or spiritual component to them. We need to separate these out from the heart of the spiritual realm otherwise we lose focus on what is essential for our journey. I am suggesting land mines are experiences of life that seriously effect our spiritual and moral journey.
WHAT CAN WE CONCLUDE?
The world is a fragmented diverse experience and the reasons for success or failure, good fortune or misfortune are beyond simple explanation. We can say that creation is a massive and complex organism that is ever in the process of exuding its life.
If Jesus said you cannot know the reason for tragedies, what he did try to teach was that you must be responsible for the quality of your own moral and spiritual life. Because life is so dynamic and fluid, then it can grow, blossom and mature or it can retract, degenerate and ultimately die. This is the point at which we are responsible for engaging with this diverse and wonderful world.
We seek its growth or we lose it. We manage it and nurture it that we may fulfill our calling as spiritual beings. But we are humans who are learning as we go. Our responsibility is the management of the spiritual, the moral and social involvement in life. This part of the journey is subtle and it is easy to slip up on.
The vital truth is to welcome the opportunity to repent. In its own right it is not easy. Our pride gets in the way, but it is a key to growth and maturity.
Jesus highlights this special challenge in his usual colorful way. He uses the parable of a fig tree which the owner discovers has not produced figs for three years. The owner suggests cutting it down. The gardener, offers to give it special attention. He’ll tend the soil and manure it and give it one last chance. If unsuccessful then he suggests cutting it down.
The spiritual life is a subtle and dynamic experience. It is prone to decay if it is not being developed. Repentance is its special gift for keeping that growth going.
We are responsible for spiritual growth not for the misfortune or tragedies that all experience. When we let spiritually stumble. We must correct the situation, scripture says repent.
We might say when, things, spiritually, morally or socially go wrong, …….
“Get back on the bike and keep peddling the highway of life."