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Wild, unfettered and free

This week we had Ascension Day on Thursday 9th March. Remembering Jesus’ and His place now at the right hand of God, this place of authority, honour and sovereignty. Eastertide is moving towards its climactic pinnacle in the upper room as the Disciples obediently wait for ten days in uncertainty and obscurity. Jesus ascending before their eyes, come and gone once again.


(It reminds me of the line about Aslan in CS Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - “He'll be coming and going" he had said. "One day you'll see him and another you won't. He doesn't like being tied down - and of course he has other countries to attend to. It's quite all right. He'll often drop in. Only you mustn't press him. He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”)


Acts 1 is a familiar passage of scripture and one that is often quoted when talking about the mission of Jesus’ followers around the world and down the ages.

 

So, when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

 

Just think for a minute about what Jesus is saying here and how these disciples would have felt. Jerusalem? Yeah, no problem; Judea? yeah OK but that’s a bit disruptive; Samaria? Hang on, not sure about those guys! Is it even ok for us to talk to them? The ends of the earth? Well, that changes everything!


To this ragamuffin group who may never have travelled very far, Jesus says head out as my witnesses, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to Samaria (the place and people group that they would ordinarily avoided) and then also into the far reaches of the world. This would be a very ‘frontier’

for them. And this idea of frontier places, spaces and missions left me musing.


What does it mean to witness and what does it mean to head out into the frontier?


Howard Macey reminds us that “The spiritual life cannot be made suburban. It is always frontier, and we who live in it must accept and even rejoice that it remains untamed.”


A frontier spiritual life that is wild and untamed sounds good to some, but really disruptive for others.



Theologian Walter Bruggemann seems to think along similar lines to Macey and CS Lewis when he describes God as ‘wild, unfettered and free’.


How have we missed this, this call to the frontier by a God who is ‘wild and free’? Have we settled for the tamed, suburban, clinical existence, inspired by a God of our own making who stays securely in the box we made for Him? Perhaps a life where everything makes sense to us and we keep a hand firmly on the controls?


When Jesus followed the Spirit it led Him out into the wilderness to be tested and to discover the depths of the truth of exactly who He was. It was a brutal and costly experience, that left Him spent and needing angels to attend to Him. Is our experience of the Spirit the same? Are we willing to be led into the wilderness?


The ancient Celts of the British Isles affectionately named the Spirit ‘The Wild Goose’. While the presence of the Spirit that brings comfort and peace, often comes to us in the form of a Dove (and oh my, the peace of God is a balm for the everyday experiences of humanity) these Celts experienced the Holy Spirit as a wild and disruptive force. If followed, adventure was sure to unfold, perhaps disturbing the gentle waters and the status quo.


This rings true when you consider the words of Jesus in John 3:8: “The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”


My hope is that we all know the Holy Spirit in both of these ways - the gentle dove of peace who comforts and ushers in Godly wisdom; and the raucous call of the Wild Goose who disturbs our sedate existence with a call to the frontier? Do you know Spirit in this way? It certainly needs to form part our existence and walk with God.


Life with God, of course needs to be grounded and have its foundations in our deep life of ‘being’. Then, we live out the ebb and flow of being and doing, contemplation and activism. As the Northumbria Community write, ‘…the need for the cell and the coracle, being and doing, monastery fuelling mission, seeking God in the heart in order to better serve God in the world’


In this waiting period, I Invite you to enter into the idea of heading out to the frontier. What does that mean to you?


What is ‘Samaria’ to you in your life and context? Are you being called there? Instead, perhaps you’re always off on some crusade to ‘the ends of the earth’ and now frontier looks like staying at home with family and friends. How are you currently being called to witness to what Jesus has done in your life? Does it look different to what you’ve always known? We’re entering a new day in the church, with many of us actually being forced into frontier places, some of us are holding onto for dear life while others welcome the change, excited to see what God might be doing in and through His people.


Whatever is happening in your life, perhaps it begins with a willingness to ‘GO’. My friend Jill always says, “Lord the answer is yes, what’s the question?” Are we willing to leave the shore of familiarity and head out into open waters on the current of the Holy Spirit?


To me it appears that for those born of the Spirit, change, frontier, adventure, danger and wildness are a regular occurrence in our existence if we’re willing to follow. That, and freedom of course! The presence of the Spirit also means freedom for us (2 Corinthians 3:17). Let’s turn our gaze and attention towards the Holy Spirit and maybe our ‘yes’ will mean heading out on a great adventure……wild, unfettered and free!!


Jon Timms Director: Scotland & North of England


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