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Faces By the Wayside—Persons Who Encountered Jesus on the Road: A Month of Daily Meditations for Advent, Lent, and Other Seasons of the Soul

Faces By the Wayside—Persons Who Encountered Jesus on the Road: A Month of Daily Meditations for Advent, Lent, and Other Seasons of the Soul

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Faces By the Wayside—Persons Who Encountered Jesus on the Road: A Month of Daily Meditations for Advent, Lent, and Other Seasons of the Soul

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Jan 5, 2012


"If I could only have been there . . ." Did you ever wish you could have been among those who actually encountered Jesus in person; mingled, perhaps, with those throngs beside the lake; feasted among the five thousand in a Galilean meadow; crowded along the village street as the carpenter from Nazareth passed by? This month of daily meditations seeks to accomplish just that; to place readers in the ways that Jesus walked; to assist those who pray or meditate their way across this thirty-day selection to experience the many moments of Jesus's ministry as narrated in the gospels, through the eyes and minds, the hearts and emotions of folk-ordinary folk for the most part- whose lives were touched and transformed as Jesus walked their way. For Lent, or Advent, or for any season of spiritual renewal, Faces by the Wayside can set you once again in the presence of the Master.
Jan 5, 2012

Sobre el autor

The Reverend Dr. J. Barrie Shepherd, a native of Great Britain, retired as Minister Emeritus from The First Presbyterian Church in New York City. Prior to that he was senior minister of Swarthmore Presbyterian Church for sixteen years and served in college and university chaplaincy and teaching. He has preached and lectured at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke and other universities and colleges and many of the major seminaries, as well as in distinguished pulpits across the USA and in the UK, Europe and Africa. The author is an avid saltwater fisherman and sailor. He enjoys swimming, walking, gardening and playing the euphonium in community bands. He and his wife Mhairi have four daughters and three granddaughters.

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Faces By the Wayside—Persons Who Encountered Jesus on the Road - J. Barrie Shepherd



The gospels give one the impression that as Jesus walked the road toward Jerusalem his way was thronged with great crowds. Those crowds were made up of countless individuals, each one of them seeking, in his or her own way, to form a relationship with the Master. Some of these individuals—almost every one of them unnamed—have been immortalized by the gospel writers; yet it is my suspicion that, unique as each one was, they shared with the rest of those comprising the massive throngs the same basic human impulses and inhibitions, dreams and terrors that we today also know. So I have selected just a few—Faces by the Wayside I have called them—to shed some light and lend some depth to this daily pilgrimage we still share.

After the publication of the two previous books in this series, Faces at the Manger and Faces at the Cross, I was told by many readers how the thoughts expressed by those characters from long ago led them to find themselves again beside the Bethlehem manger, or at the foot of Golgotha. It is my hope and prayer that, among these varied personalities encountered by the wayside, you, the reader, may again trace the outline of your own familiar features—and may somehow come to share in their experiences of the presence and the power, the gracious, down-to-earth radiance of the carpenter from Nazareth. To that end, I would encourage readers to first read and reflect upon the scriptural sources printed beneath the title of each piece as a way of both setting the scene and settling the soul.

These meditations are presented in a thirty-day format—one encounter per day—covering a period of one month. Thus, they may be used as a part of daily devotions at any time of the year. However, as with the earlier books, they may well be most helpful during the seasons of Advent or Lent, when the prayer life takes on a renewed and more intense focus on the life and pilgrimage of our Lord. Once again, it is my hope that, in a variety of dramatic formats, they may also be helpful within the setting of contemplative worship.

I have also sought, as before, to provide open spaces before or after each meditation in which the reader/prayer might enter his or her personal reflections, insights, or prayer concerns for that particular day. In this way, the book may function not only as a prayer guide but also as a prayer and meditation journal. I know that such a practice has proved helpful to readers in the past, and I hope it may again serve in similar fashion.

As with the earlier books, the experience of writing has proved to be not only challenging but also fascinating and even intriguing. Time and again I have awakened, in what we used to call in Scotland the wee small hours of two or three or four a.m., with lines running through my head, phrases already resonating in my brain, eager, as it were—impatient even—to be set down on paper. It has seemed, at times, as if I have been not so much creating as recording these reflections. I have felt, much of the time, as if once I selected a personality to focus upon and studied his or her story, no matter how brief, in the gospel narratives, the character itself took over. All I had to do was listen carefully—and prayerfully—and then set down what I heard.

In a sense, of course, all imaginative writing is like that: an exercise in openness to what many have called the Muse, but which I experience as God’s Holy Spirit singing her songs, playing her tunes, and using me as her instrument, however poorly tuned. It is my hope and prayer that in the melodies that follow, the same Holy Spirit will sing her way into the minds, hearts, and lives of those who read, so that the wonder and mystery might live again, and a host of new Faces by the Wayside may be ushered into the presence of the Master.

I have completed work on this, my fourteenth book, in the weeks leading up to the forty-fifth anniversary of my ordination to the ministry of word and sacrament, which took place on Halloween, October 31, 1965. Looking back I cannot but pause to remember all the Faces by the Wayside encountered across these years and offer thanks for loyal friendship, shared laughter, tears and song, and for every glimpse of grace that has blessed us on our way.

All Hallows’ Eve

Chebeague Island, Maine

Day One

The Temple Patriarch

(Luke 2:41–52)

No, he did not have all the answers,

but those questions that he asked,

and then pursued beyond all our traditional,

timeworn and tested reasonings,

the clear authority with which he posed them,

and addressed us, the sages of the temple,

astonished every one of us.

After all, he could hardly have been more

than twelve years old, not yet close to being ready

to read aloud the law for the first time

in his local synagogue,

let alone challenge the accumulated wisdom

of our holiest of holies in Jerusalem.

We thought to humor him at first,

pass an amusing hour or so

in an otherwise uneventful season

by chatting with this quiet, thoughtful,

if just a bit presumptuous youngster.

By his rough accent and plain garb

it was evident he was of peasant stock.

In from the Galilee with his parents for the festival,

no doubt, and causing them no end of worry,

come to think of it, by vanishing for hours,

yes, days on end.

Certainly when they arrived to claim him

there was a look of almost panic in their eyes,

a hint of tears that even their enormous relief

could not completely wipe away.

When they reproached him, however—

it wasn’t even scolding,

which surely would have been reasonable

in such circumstances (I heard later

that they were more than a full day’s journey

on their homeward route before the lad was missed)—

when the peasant mother gently chided him

for causing them such anxiety,

he responded, in a likewise gentle tone,

that they surely might have realized

he would be where he belonged,

right there in his Father’s house,

and doing his Father’s work.

But what lingers with me most

is not such scenes of family tenderness

and genuine concern,

but those questions that he put to us,

questions which, in all our years

of back and forth debate,

testing one point of view against another,

citing all the old familiar texts from prophets,

wisdom teachers, and the songs of mighty David,

we had never dared to ask, or even think of asking.

These were questions that were based,

or had every appearance of being based,

on such an unsophisticated, yet profoundly intimate—

I would even call it direct—relationship with the Holy One

that even the most experienced and wisest of us

were stunned, at times, to momentary silence.

When he first referred—for one example—

to the Divinity as Abba, Daddy,

we found it charming, if a little shockingly naïve,

and chuckled into our learned, well-combed beards.

But when he persisted in this usage,

even after we had made clear to him

the ancient and well-founded reservations

of our God-fearing faith concerning

addressing the Almighty by any name at all,

let alone such a direct and intimate one;

and then when we reprimanded him—mildly, of course—

and suggested he be more circumspect in future,

he asked, in turn, what it was we feared

of a parent God who taught us, as Hosea put it,

how to walk, who supported our first tottering steps

across the family hearth with cords of lovingkindness,

with the bands of genuine compassion.

What both disturbs and fascinates me now,

as I reflect upon all that was spoken

and not spoken there,

is that the young lad seemed to find

within these selfsame Scriptures

we have pored over, and argued back and forth,

across and up and down, for centuries,

a new and much more natural way of seeing things,

a view of

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