In O Pioneers! (1913), Willa Cather (1873-1947) settles the Bergson family on the Nebraskan prairie before confronting the sturdy good Alexandra Bergson and her two adult but younger brothers with three years of drought. Alexandra loves the land and responds to the challenge by deepening her roots in it. Her brothers share a contrary inclination.
The Bergson boys, certainly, would have been happier with their uncle Otto, in the bakery shop in Chicago. Like most of their neighbors, they were meant to follow in paths already marked out for them, not to break trails in a new country. A steady job, a few holidays, nothing to think about, and they would have been very happy. It was no fault of theirs that they had been dragged into the wilderness when they were little boys. A pioneer should have imagination, should be able to enjoy the idea of things more than the things themselves (O Pioneer!, Vintage Classics, 1992, p. 25).
In a town of modest size in the Deep South stands a meetinghouse belonging to a congregation of the Disciples of Christ. A sign at the exit of its parking lot reminds members, “You are now entering mission territory.”
These words remind us of an important truth. We Christians always live on the frontier. We daily face the challenge of witnessing to the presence of Christ’s Kingdom of Light as it collides with Satan’s Domination of Darkness. Jesus differentiates one day from the next by speaking to us surprising words through which he launches us yet again on new trails of unexpected adventure. Rather than emptying our minds of thoughts, he fills each of us with the desire to love the Lord our God with our whole mind. Rather than promising us happiness, he prepares us to sell everything we have just to keep up with him. This improvisational way of living is not our fault but no virtue of ours either. To live it well, Jesus daily provides us with the pioneering imagination we need to respond creatively to the latest dark domination.
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