One of my favourite book titles is A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson. He borrowed it from the atheist philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who famously declared the death of God. That irony aside, Peterson uses this quote to frame his excellent book exploring the Psalms of Ascents. These Psalms (120-134) begin by longing to be in God’s House, the Temple, and journeying along with pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem. They finish there, with God’s people in God’s presence, raising their hands in praise in the sanctuary.
Pilgrimage marks the nature of the Christian life. We are constantly journeying, each step taking us towards the completion of our journey when we finally reach the presence of God in the New Creation. Until then, we keep on going, which is not always easy. Just read those Psalms and you’ll uncover the challenges God’s people face along the journey.
We are living through similar times. Although God is present with us even when we’re on our own, there is something special about our encounter with God when we come together as his people, the church. Many of us have not been able to do that for a long time now. Even as regulations have changed and some churches begin to open up, many still will not be able to do so. For those that do gather, there will be restrictions and it will not be the same as it was or should be, at least for a while longer. We have to travel this road a little further.
In the lifelong pilgrimage as Christians, and in this coronavirus pilgrimage, what is it that keeps us going as God’s people? It is God’s grace to us as he is the ‘God who gives endurance and encouragement’ (Rom. 15:5). Our hope is that this edition of the magazine might encourage you and help you to endure through God’s grace.
As the Psalmist lifts his eyes to the hills and remembers where his help comes from, so Luke Jenner lifts our eyes to wonderfully see the incomprehensible good God who has made himself known to us. We are also invited to think about the blessings of lockdown through the eyes of persecuted Christians, knowing that unless God builds the house, we labour in vain. The pleasantness of unity described as oil dripping down the head is something we in Wales share with believers in Wuhan, and Gwyn Davies enlightens us to a spiritual connection we have with that region. As if that wasn’t enough, there are plenty of other brilliant articles to explore as you journey through this edition of the magazine to help you endure and be encouraged.