Part 2/3 The Montana trip (thoughts on our resignation)

We woke on Friday with snow drizzling down in Jackson, Wyoming. Although the sun rose, it was as if everything were clouded in mystery. Good Friday is actually a very real and earthy day – Jesus struggling through the day obedient to the Father’s will.

Church of the Transfiguration is a little church with an awesome view of the Tetons. The two of us drove there to do our readings, the Tetons are amazing mountains – I’ve seen pictures of them. On Good Friday, they were hiding under a blanket of clouds. Every now and then a part of the mountain would peak through the mysterious covering. I wondered how the disciples must have felt on the day when Christ died. They didn’t have the benefit of seeing the pictures of Christ’s achievement on the cross. Like a pilgrim traveling through the Teton valley on a clouded day; unaware of the beauty behind the shrouded mystery.

Well the covering was torn in two that day. The separation between the holy and holy of holies tore in two! And the Teatons gazed down on us, in the church of the Transfiguration. It was bitterly cold in that little building! We huddled together, reading from Isaiah 53 and Mark, every sentence produced a steady stream of condensation in the air – and our hearts. Silence. We meditated on the passages and then it happened. Two tourists entered the chapel, making and ruckus and taking pictures. My immediate reaction was very Pharisee-like, ‘I wonder if they know what day it is?’ and ‘I am so glad I know what Jesus did for me’ changed into prayers of asking for forgiveness. I thanked Jesus for His all-inclusive love and prayed for the two who frequented the church.

The passage I meditated on more accurate, the passage that meditated on me was a weird one. A passage that would have missed my heart’s destination more often than not, made a passage through my heart.

“There was a man by the name of Joseph, a member of the Jewish High council, man of good heart and good character. He had not gone along with the plans and actions of the council. His hometown was the Jewish village of Arimathea. He lived in alert expectation of the Kingdom of God. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.” – Luke 23 (Message)

One of the reasons we took this trip was to meditated and pray about a major life decision. This decision involved resigning from Woodmen Valley Chapel, the community we’ve been with for the last 3 years. Resigning is such a weird word though. Especially in the kingdom of God, but that’s a different post altogether. In the last few months we’ve felt a strong yearning to return to South Africa. A reassigning if you will; to go back and live the Kingdom adventure in Africa.

On Good Friday God spoke to me through Joseph. Can you imagine the reassigning he must have felt? He was a part of the Jewish High Council and he distanced himself from their plans and actions. Talk about a revolutionary decision! I think part of his willingness to follow Christ and not the crowd is summed up in the sentence: he lived in alert expectation of the Kingdom of God. That’s how I want to live, my allegiance to God and His kingdom above the petty mediocrity of following the plans and actions of councils.

For us that meant leaving the comfortable world of the mega-church. Now please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not bashing the mega-church. I just know that we (Lollie and I) were not called to it. God is pulling us towards something smaller, more organic, missional – a group of friends infecting a community with God’s message. Joseph was from a Jewish village, where is mine?

Driving through Wyoming opened my eyes to some individuals. People I don’t give passage through the corridors of my mind. Ranchers and Rodeo cowboys. Whilst in Wyoming I picked up an excellent book about Wyoming, ‘The solace of open spaces’. In it Gretel Ehrlich writes about these two groups:

“Some ranchers look down on the sport of rodeo; they don’t want these ‘drugstore cowboys’ getting all the attention and glory. Besides, rodeo seems to have less and less to with real ranch work. Who ever heard of gathering cows on a bareback horse with no bridle, or climbing on a herd bull? Ranchers are generalists – they have to know how to do many things – from juggling the futures market to overhauling a tractor or curing a viral scours (diarrhea) in calves – while rodeo athletes are specialists. Deep down, they probably feel envious of each other: the rancher for the praise and big money; the rodeo cowboy for the stay-at-home life among animals to which their sport only alludes.”

These two pictures, Joseph and Rancher/Rodeo cowboys gave me a picture of what God is pulling us too. In the mega-church we have had a lot of praise and the big bucks. We yearn for the stay-at-home life in a community, like the towns in Wyoming where people know the stories of their lives, the individual and collective Story.