I read the entry “Oasis” from my blog at the Pilgrim 9.30 Service this morning and got a lot of positive comments. It seems to capture the open, inclusive and celebratory feel that many of us are looking for.
Tired travellers in the desert are searching for palm trees in the distance. They are looking for promised rest and refreshment. They have a more distant destination, but their gaze is intent on the hope that lies immediately ahead. As they come near the oasis, they are anxious for the welcome and acceptance they need for rest, and for cool, clear waters of refreshment for themselves and their caravan. They hope that desert protocol has been maintained. For without it, travel in the desert would be disastrous.
But they are also looking beyond mere survival on their journey. When the camels have been watered and the tent has been pitched there will be celebration with food and music and the swapping of stories under the bright night sky. Strangers become friends. Important questions are discussed. Knowledge of the desert is as vital to survival as the waters of the oasis itself. They will stay a while and then move on. But while their tent is pitched beside the still waters they themselves will receive other weary newcomers and provide the necessary hospitality that ensures the ongoing viability of the oasis.
There is a small band who stay in this place. They are holders of desert wisdom. But they do not hold it to themselves. They have gathered knowledge from the many travellers who have told their stories of desert life over time, whose stories have proven life giving to journeyers of all time. This oasis community acts as host for the ongoing sharing of wisdom that ensures survival in the desert. The respect won by these sages is a moderating influence against the ever-present threat of waters being muddied by ignorance or greed, and wisdom distorted by the self-important purveyors of mischievous mis-information.
The travellers pack their camels to continue their journey. They have been safe here. They are grateful for rest and refreshment. But now they must risk new adventures. They mount their camels holding deeply memories of storytelling under a cold starry night. Life long friendships among once strangers have been cemented. The wisdom of the sages has supplemented their desert wisdom, informing their ongoing journey.
They point their camels toward the next destination with confidence and gratitude. The sages offer their blessing and the caravan departs into the glare of the future.