Tuesday, January 8, 2008

On the road again

“As they were going along the road, someone said....” All four of the gospel writers love to use this “as they were walking along” phrase. That’s because our encounters with Jesus always occur along the way in life. Jesus can find you while you are on the way to your first apartment or the nursing home. He can find you on the way to a great career or a terrible divorce, on the way to give birth or on the way to bury the dead. You thought you were on the road up, or the road down, but once you encounter Jesus along the way in life, you’ll discover that he always bids you to follow him on a new road.
Jesus never stops moving. He didn’t buy any houses. He didn’t join any clubs, PTAs, pension plans, or even churches. He just kept moving toward Jerusalem. And if you are going to follow him, you’ll find that he is constantly moving your life around as well.
Have you ever been at a place where you got your life just right? You have close friends who
are always available when you need them, your family members are all healthy, work is going
pretty well, and you’ve got yourself a good church where they sing hymns you know. Usually. Didn’t you want to say, “Okay, this is it. This is just right. Nobody move!” Well, take a picture because that is always the moment when Jesus blows a whistle and says, “Everybody out of the pool!”
Do you want to know what 2008 will bring? I can’t tell you that. I can promise you what you
will find in the new year—change. Now, why is that always true? Why do you have to keep letting go of cherished things and adjusting to new things? Doesn’t Jesus know you’re an old dog? Why do have to keep learning new tricks? Families, friendships, workplaces, congregations, the city—they all just keep changing. Why can’t everything stay right where it is? Because you are not to Jerusalem yet.
What is so special about Jerusalem? Most of the time, the disciples don’t know. You see, Jerusalem is not just an ancient city. In the Bible it stands as a symbol, as the place of our salvation; it’s the place where we finally understand what Jesus is doing. At the end of the New Testament we are told about a New Jerusalem where God’s reign is clear, where all creation is restored, and where there are no more tears. So Jerusalem is a symbol of that place in time when you join heaven, and earth will utter the great celestial exhale because then we can all stop moving. But you are not there yet. Jerusalem comes at the end of the story, which means we are always more clear about what Jesus is asking us to give up than we are about where he is taking us.
Each year of your life, he will call you to drop something else that you are carrying because it
is too heavy and weighs you down. So the road to Jerusalem is always a bit difficult because we have to let go of things along the way. But by all means, Jesus cautions, “Don’t look back!” It will only make the journey harder.
As a pastor, I have discovered that people have their reasons for looking back. One reason is
because they have too much hurt back there. Maybe it is a hurt they caused. Maybe it is a hurt someone else gave to them. Maybe the hurt still hurts. And maybe they have become such good friends with the hurt that they can’t leave it behind.
Another reason why people look back is that they like the past better than the present. Have
you ever noticed that some of us can make the past better with time? It can grow by mythic proportions. I do not believe that Jesus is telling us that we cannot grieve our losses or remember our past. No one ever gets over the death of a family member. And no one ever learns without remembering the past. Our lives are shaped by the joys and heartaches of the past. If we ignore that, we ignore ourselves. But that is not where life is found. Not anymore.
Jesus is calling us to keep moving because the opportunity for life is now waiting down the
road. But it is hard to stay on the road of change . . . unless we see Jesus along the way. That is what faith is. It is a way of seeing that Jesus is with us on the Journey. That is why we come to worship and why we commit ourselves to Sunday school classes, Bible studies, and daily devotions. It is all a way of seeing Jesus with us. It is why we learn to reach out to others with compassion and care. Jesus can always be seen in the face of those in need of a cup of cold water. It is why we put our hands to the plow and do the work we’ve been given to do today. Jesus still loves to appear along the way of our lives. And you have got to keep your eyes on him, or you’ll never make it to Jerusalem.


TWELFTH NIGHT/EPIPHANY      I read this line in a interview with Christian Wiman in Christianity Today:   "Jurgen Mol...