Sermon transcript for June 30, 2013
The Big Road Trip
Belmont UMC—June 30, 2013
Ken Edwards, preaching
The Edwards family is known for our long road trips; we just returned from at trip to New Mexico, driving over 3000 miles. We have driven further on other trips. We once drove to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia with two young children in the car. What were we thinking? On two consecutive years we drove out west. We took a northern route one year to Glacier National Park, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Parks. We took the southern route the next year to Mesa Verde, Brice, and Grand Canyon National Parks. We once flew to California and then rented a car and drove all the way to Victoria, British Columbia. We flew to Idaho once, rented a car and drove to the Ice Fields of Canada.
We tried to play games with small children in the car to look for ways to occupy ourselves on those long trips. Driving across Kansas with 2 small children in the car we offered prizes for good behavior every 2 hours. Once we arrived at our campsite at Rocky Mountain National Park, the two boys ran around and around the campsite with pent up energy.
The first day of those trips were usually the longest. We would leave before daylight so the kids would sleep for a few hours. Then they would wake up and we would hear, “He’s touching me.” “He’s looking at me.” “How much longer will it be?” “Are we there yet?”
Those long days of driving in a minivan filled with too much stuff were tests of how much we loved each other. By the end of the day we would know what kind of Christians we were. We often failed the test.
I always laughed in those hotel rooms where they would provide a little door sign that you hang over the doorknob of you hotel room. One side read, “Please clean this room.” The other side read, “Please do not disturb.” I would laugh because the only people who were apt to disturb me were in the room with me.
Road trips, journeying, traveling: these are metaphors for our faith.
Abraham and Sarah and an entourage of family and servants and farm animals set out from Ur to find a new land God had promised.
Moses and the Hebrews, liberated from captivity, journeyed in the wilderness for a generation, looking for a new home.
Along the way they learned about God and about being together in community. They could be noble and courageous and faithful, and they could be irritable and impatient as five people stuck in a minivan for 10 hours. They experienced heroic faith and faithless despair. They complained a lot and kept asking God, “Are we there yet?” But God never abandoned them. God was faithful.
Their lives become an example of how we travel on this great road trip we call Christianity. We are wanderers, pilgrims, sojourners, and strangers (or immigrants), who are in the world but of the world, and we are on the move.
In Luke 9 Jesus begins his journey toward Jerusalem. It will not be an easy journey. Followers will leave him and betray him. Whole towns will reject him. And his words in this passage seem harsh and unrealistic, but his words underline the seriousness of what he is about and who we are called to be.
Toward the end of her book, Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor writes about a similar passage in Luke—a passage in which Jesus tells his would-be followers that they must reject members of their own family to be his disciples. She concludes that this was Jesus way of telling people to go home—that they didn’t need to go to Jerusalem and die with him.
She writes, “He needed people to go back where they came from and live the kind of lives that he had risked his own life to show them: lives of resisting the powers of death, of standing up for the little and the least, of turning cheeks and washing feet, of praying for enemies and loving the unlovable. That would be plenty hard enough for most of them.” (p. 229) So, the journey we are on with Jesus is not an easy one and it is never to be taken lightly.
Our faith experience is about the journey itself. Many of our people get too focused on the destination, but our shared life is really about the journey—the destination will take care of itself.
God keeps trying to teach me this but the conversion is slow. I’m goal focused. On the hiking trail I’m trying to get to the waterfall and back to the trailhead. On a road trip, if someone says, “Could we turn around and go back so we can take a photo of that old barn?” The idea of turning around and going back is offensive to me. Turn around? Go back? We have make up time, get to our destination.
God is teaching us that it is about the journey, about paying attention along the way. It is like we pray each Sunday, “Help us to be present to God, as God is present to us.” Someone said, “The way we live our life is determined by how we live our days.” It is about how we live each day that God gives us--how fully attentive and present we are to what is doing in the world..
It is about the journey because on the journey we learn how to live in community. We learn about God, about how to be obedient to God’s call on our lives, about making a difference in the world, about widening our circle to include others. On this journey we grow deeper in our faith.
It is interesting that when the Israelites finally crossed the river and settled in the land and codified their rules for traveling into law, they included a rule for hospitality for other wanderers, strangers, immigrants, because they had once been strangers in other peoples’ lands.
People who journey together get hungry. We never go on a road trip without snacks. If people start to grumble we can feed them and buy a little more time. On our journey of faith God provides nourishment for the travel.
When the people of Israel journeyed they complained of empty stomachs and God provided manna from heaven.
When Elijah was hungry in Zarephath, God used a poor and starving widow to feed him and God provided a continual supply of nourishment to bless this woman’s act of sharing.
When John journeyed in the wilderness he was hungry enough to eat locusts and honey.
After Jesus journeyed into 40 days of fasting and temptation, the scripture says that angels came and ministered to him. I like to think they brought food with them.
When Jesus journeyed to the hilltop for a teaching session with thousands of people, he instructed the disciples to feed them because he had compassion on them and did not want them to go away hungry.
When Elijah ran for his life and lay down under a tree. He gave up and went to sleep and when he woke up, he saw cake and water. An angel said, “Get up and eat, otherwise, the journey will be too much for you.”
We journey and we grow hungry and weary and God feeds us with surprising moments of grace that fill us up. Sometimes the journey will seem like too much to handle, and God will feed us with the encouragement of fellow travelers. God feeds us in these rich moments of worship and prayer.
When our oldest son was between his 2nd and 3rd year of life, I was serving as the associate pastor at Forest Hills UMC in Brentwood. Lars was whisked away each Sunday to the nursery and then to children’s church. He was seldom present in worship with us.
I was invited to my home church to preach and assist in the baptism of my nephew. It was a communion Sunday and it was the first time our little one had been in worship when communion was served. He knelt at the altar beside his mother and I served him a piece of bread and a tiny cup of grape juice. I smiled at him and moved on to the next person. (As a parent you sometimes have this awareness when something is about to happen, but it comes about a half a second too late for you to respond. I had that moment of awareness—too late.)
Lars said in a loud voice, “Daddy, that was good. Can I have some more?” I tried to ignore him. He got louder! I looked to Kathryn for help and she picked him up and took him out. All the time he was saying, “I just wanted some more juice.”
I made a mistake 27 years ago. And if I could go back and relive that moment, I would say, “Sure Son, you can have some more.” And then I would have turned to the congregation and said, “Don’t all of you want more? This is the bread which has come down from heaven. This is the promise of God’s love for us. This is God’s food for the journey. Come all who hunger from travel and be filled.”
Sermon transcript for June 23, 2013
Belmont UMC—June 23, 2013
Pam Hawkins, preaching