You and I are on one of seven journeys. The first journey takes us from the Garden of Eden, where our world met all of our needs and wants met for a little while, just like being in the womb.
But then we are expelled from the Garden and must start our lives for real, like crying tears and getting hungry and thirsty.
The second journey we take could be called our “Declaration of Independence.” We find ourselves empowered to escape oppressive environments that enslaved us, like ancient Egypt enslaved the Israelites, or maybe our very own families, or one or two of our friends. After we escape oppression, we must learn how to live with utter freedom; and, we enter a wilderness, hungry and thirsty for life. Being free takes discipline and accountability – hard lessons to learn if we intend to survive. And this journey takes us many years in our life to learn how to deal with being self-responsible. Some never learn that lesson.
Today’s journey – the fourth journey – follows that wilderness journey that makes us free.
It involves finding a guiding light more intelligent that ourselves. In the Book of Exodus that intelligence gave us its name, “The Pillar of Fire.” It directs our life. In the New Testament that intelligence came in the form of tongues of fire over our heads. Unfortunately, some folks never find this Pillar of or tongues of Fire, bringing their journey through life to a quick end, for without this Pillar of Fire or tongues of fire or Pentecost, we never get chances of re-entering the Garden of Eden as we can at the end of the New Testament. We can’t start life anew and do it all over again better the second time when we leave the Garden.
With the Pillar of Fire – the fourth journey – we find our way out of the wilderness. We feel hopeful and alive with a sense of direction for the rest of our life.
As I stated, “The Pillar of Fire” in the Old Testament comes to us Christians as the flame over our heads at Pentecost, when early church folk spoke in a variety of tongues. We remain freed and also want to carry out God’s will for humanity. And so we learn to speak in different languages to prepare ourselves to take another journey out through the Mediterranean coast and the entire world to spread the good news of Christ’s Gospel about abundant life and conquest over death. The Pillar of Fire in the Old Testament – the Book of Exodus – returns to us Christians as the Holy Spirit. This is the fourth journey we can take.
So open your eyes this holiday season, find the fire in your life, and travel with me to the fifth journey called, “The Promised Land.”
Tom Towns is pastor of First United Methodist Church in Cortez.