Monday 30 November 2009

Advent themes: challenging questions

bridge in lincoln where are you going  copy

Wigford Way bridge over the Witham Navigation, Brayford Pool, Lincoln

While Jesus was living in the Galilean hills, John, called "the Baptizer," was preaching in the desert country of Judea. His message was simple and austere, like his desert surroundings: "Change your life. God's kingdom is here."  (Matthew 3:1-2)

It is Dusk in Lincoln and the last of the light reveals a massive, unmissable and blunt question on the side of the bridge. It is unlike anything I have ever seen before, and was installed as a piece of public art in 2004. The online guide to Brayford Waterfront describes it like this: “It asks the question, 'Where are you going?' when you are walking through to Brayford Waterfront and 'Where have you been?' when you are walking back from Brayford Waterfront to the High Street Quarter of the city. It is also meant to engage with the visitor as it asks them more about their life situation - where they are heading and where they have been.”

Where are you going? This is such a strikingly appropriate question for this reflective season of Advent.  It echoes the challenging questions that I imagine John the Baptist asked of those who sought him out in the desert. It is the sort of simple and austere question which should really stop us in our tracks. A question which invites a profoundly honest response and one which offers the possibility of a complete change of direction. The gospels portray John’s message as a challenge to change oneself totally:

“As he preached he said, "The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I'm a mere stagehand, will change your life. I'm baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out”    (Mark 1:7-8)

And so when Jesus strides on stage, the Kingdom of God confronts us as unmissably as does the question on the bridge:

Jesus went to Galilee preaching the Message of God: ‘Time's up! God's kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message’.”   (Mark 1:14-15)

So where am I going? What values govern the direction of my life? Is it time to change course? Where and with whom does God need me to be? These are good Advent questions. Uncomfortable questions. Godly questions.

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