‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where –‘ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
Hmmm. I wonder what seven-year old Alice Plausance Liddell made of this story during a picnic on the river at Oxford, 151 years ago, when told them by her devoted Christian friend, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson? I wonder what we make of them now, as we read them again from that much loved story ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, written by Dodgson under his pen name, Lewis Carroll?
Should life be lived intentionally, always on the way towards a goal? The Basis of Union of the Uniting Church in Australia thinks so. How often we hear and repeat those words, based on Paragraph 3 of the Basis: ‘We are a pilgrim people, always on the way towards a promised goal; on the way Christ feeds us with word and sacraments, and we have the gift of the Spirit in order that we may not lose the way.’
Towards what promised goal, then, is that intention directed? Once again Paragraph 3 of the Basis is clear: We are given the Holy Spirit as a pledge and foretaste of that coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation. It continues: the Church’s call is to serve that end, to be a fellowship of reconciliation in which the gifts of its members are used for the building up of the whole. These words are laden with meaning but if opportunity allows me only a ‘soundbite’ then I say that we are called to serve God’s passion for a better world. People get that.
Our journey is both corporate and individual. It is the church’s call to serve the coming reconciliation and renewal which God will bring. What we bring as individual members, to build up and enable the church to respond to its call, is our unique constellation of gifts and graces. And we are accountable for this. Recall the Parable of the Talents. Each person was called to account. In Biblical times a ‘talent’ was the equivalent of a day’s wages for a labourer. We are to account for the way in which we invest our time, for it is in time that we invest our giftedness.
But how should we invest it? A bit like Alice, we can ask for guidance. But unlike Alice we do know where we want to get to, and we seek our guidance not from a Cheshire Cat, or some other mad source of supposed wisdom, but from the Holy Spirit. That’s what the Basis says, we are pilgrim people on the way towards a promised goal, and we have the gift of the Spirit in order that we may not lose the way. We seek our guidance in prayer, both by asking and by patiently listening.
Intentional living is integral to being a follower of Jesus Christ. It is not like being Alice: ‘- so long as I get somewhere,’ Alice added as an explanation. ‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.’
No, being a follower of Christ is not like being Alice. We have heard Christ’s call, been entrusted with the message of reconciliation and equipped with talents. We are on a journey towards a promised goal and we have the gift of the Holy Spirit in order that we may not lose the way.
Rev Ken Williams, principal of the Perth Theological Hall and Ex-Moderator of the Uniting Church in WA.