Last Spring I was walking in the wilderness from Egypt, up thru Jordan and part of Israel with our SSU module. This morning we looked at an individual named Antony who represents a tradition of people who sought God in the desert wilderness in that area.
I have to confess that in March I found the geography very appealing for its otherness and its solitude. It would be easy to drop everything and wander off into the hills and live a different kind of life. And then I’d get hungry for a Mars bar and stop kidding myself. The life of Antony, as told to us by Athanasius, is an intriguing look into a life desperate to shed the skin of complacency and comfort for a life of danger, challenge and absolutely no Mars bars.
His search for obscurity made him a strange kind of celebrity. His pursuit of the presence of God made him the target of demonic attention. His love of peace brought him into significant conflict. His desire to be along with God led to crowds seeking him out for advice, help and wisdom.
Athanasius wrote of Antony, “It was as if he were a physician given to Egypt by God. For who went to him grieving and did not return rejoicing? Who went in lamentation over his dead, and did not immediately put aside his sorrow? Who visited while angered and was not changed to affection? What poor person met him n exhaustion who did not, after hearing and seeing him, despise wealth and console himself in hi poverty?...And who came to him distressed in his thoughts and did not find his mind calmed?”
As a pastor in an urban setting I want to set my heart on being a vessel for the same Spirit of God in the same measure that Antony was. I want a transformational empathy to emanate from my life as it did Antony’s. I want power to find a clean conduit in my life to lead others to experience the providence of God. I want to want Jesus more than I want a Mars bar or comfort or cable or a retirement package or a smart phone or recognition. Let Jesus alone be my main and my dessert in whatever desert I find myself.