The Journey

The End of the Journey

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During the season of Lent, I’m preaching a sermon series entitled The Journey.  Along with the weekly sermon, I’ll be blogging on my church’s website.  So I’ve decided to put those posts on this – my personal blog – as well.  Here’s the final week…

Scripture: Luke 13:22, 31-35

Most of us are familiar with the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken.”  It ends with the poignant phrase,
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

In the Church, the Sunday before Easter is observed as Palm Sunday.  It is the day we remember Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem at the start of what we call Holy Week, the last week of Jesus’ earthly life.

In the gospel of Luke, Jesus makes very clear to his disciples that he is journeying toward Jerusalem where he will be crucified.  The writing is on the wall.  Even a group of Pharisees (pretty unlikely allies) remind Jesus that Jerusalem is a dangerous place for him to frequent.  If he’s wise, he’ll reverse course.

But Jesus forges ahead.  He forges ahead because he has a clear understanding of the work God has called him to do.  His ministry began in the 4th chapter of Luke when he gave a sermon in his hometown synagogue at Nazareth.  Reading from the prophet Isaiah, he gave witness to God’s call on his life.  Those words from Isaiah were his personal mission statement and he never wavered in his mission.  From the start Jesus encountered resistant.  But he still chose to travel to Jerusalem.  He still chose to take the road that led him toward death because he knew that it was also the road that would lead to our salvation.

Our life’s journeys may not be as clear and discernible as we would like them to be.  And we may struggle to find our way along life’s path.  But, thanks be to God that Jesus knew the path his life should take and he was committed to the journey.  He did not take the easy road or the coward’s way out.  He gave his life for us.  He took the “road less traveled by.  And that has made all the difference”for us.

Posted on Updated on

During the season of Lent, I’m preaching a sermon series entitled The Journey.  Along with the weekly sermon, I’ll be blogging on my church’s website.  So I’ve decided to put those posts on this – my personal blog – as well.  Here’s the fourth week…

Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers.  They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.  Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper.  ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”  The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”                                                                                      (Luke 10:30-37)

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Fisher King(released in 1991) starring Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges.  Within the film the story is told of The Fool and the Fisher King…
A young boy spends the night alone in the forest to prove his courage so he could become king. While spending the night alone, he’s visited by a sacred vision. Out of the fire appears the Holy Grail. A voice spoke from the fire saying, “You shall be keeper of the grail so that it may heal the hearts of men.” But the boy was blinded by greater visions of a life filled with power and glory and beauty. And in this state of radical amazement he felt for a brief moment not like a boy, but invincible, like God. So, he reached into the fire to take the grail, and the grail vanished, leaving him with his hand in the fire to be terribly wounded. As this boy grew older, his wound grew deeper until, one day; life for him lost its meaning. He had no faith in any man, not even himself. He couldn’t love or feel loved.  He began to die. One day a fool wandered into the castle and found the king alone. And being simple minded he did not see a king. He only saw a man alone and in pain. He asked the king, “What ails you friend?” The king replied, “I’m thirsty. I need some water to cool my throat.” So the fool took a cup from beside his bed, filled it with water and handed it to the king. As the king began to drink, he realized his wound was healed. He looked in his hands and there was the Holy Grail, that which he sought all of his life. He turned to the fool and said with amazement, “How could you find that which my brightest and bravest men could not?” And the fool replied, “I don’t know. I only knew that you were thirsty.”

 

In Luke, chapter 10, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan.  It is a story that has left an indelible imprint on our culture.  We have Good Samaritan Laws and Good Samaritan Hospitals.  Jesus tells the story in response to a question posed by an expert in religious law.  He wants to know what he must do to inherit eternal life.  “Love” is Jesus’ initial answer: a very simple response; but much harder to achieve.  It is hard to love because love requires genuine compassion.  It’s hard to fake compassion.  In the story of the Fisher King, the fool reveals what the king has been seeking his whole life.  The fool has no special knowledge or training.  He has compassion.  Likewise, in the story of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan is simply traveling along when he sees a wounded man.  He feels compassion for him and, from that place of compassion, responds to his needs.  So life is not found in the desperate, individualized pursuit for glory; eternal life is here and now if – as we travel the road of life – we respond with compassion to those who are in need.  A fool and a Samaritan are the archetype of compassion.  “Go and do likewise,” says Jesus.

 

Extravagant Love

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During the season of Lent, I’m preaching a sermon series entitled The Journey.  Along with the weekly sermon, I’ll be blogging on my church’s website.  So I’ve decided to put those posts on this – my personal blog – as well.  Here’s the third week…

For God so loved the world that he gave…         John 3:16 a

I hate to waste things.  I have this neurotic obsession with getting the last drop out of lotion and shampoo bottles.  I also hate to waste food.  I have been known to eat some really bizarre foods for breakfast if something is about to go bad and be wasted.

I don’t think I’m unique, though.  Some of the thriftiest people I know are Christians.  And unfortunately, sometimes our thriftiness can evolve into stinginess.

That’s in pretty stark contrast to the Jesus of our gospels – especially the gospel of John.  Jesus appears to embrace and endorse extravagance.  Before his ministry has even launched, Jesus attends a wedding in the town of Cana.  Weddings were a big deal in the ancient Middle East.  “Receptions” went on for days.  At this one, they ran out of wine.  At his mother’s request, Jesus turns water into wine. [i] But not just any wine; this wine is of impeccable quality.  “Why?” I wonder.  By then, the guests were pretty liquored up; likely, a little tipsy and undiscerning of the quality.  Later on, Jesus is on a mountain with his disciples and 5,000 of his most adoring (and needy) fans.[ii]  Jesus decides to feed them all with resources that amount to nothing more than two fish and five loaves of bread.  It’s a miracle; but here’s the strange part: Jesus tells his disciples to collect the left overs and they fill twelve baskets!  Why such excess?  I’ve eaten leftover fish (refer to my first paragraph!) and it’s nothing to get excited about.  Then there’s the story of Mary anointing Jesus.[iii]  She anoints Jesus’ feet with some ointment made of pure spikenard.  She uses an entire pound of the stuff and its value is the equivalent to a year’s salary for a 1st century Palestinian peasant.  One website I checked listed the current average blue collar annual compensation in America as $32,000.  Can you imagine dumping $32,000 out on someone’s feet!

Now I don’t mean to imply that Jesus condones waste for waste’s sake.  But sometimes I wonder if our “thriftiness” isn’t really about fear… the fear of running out of something.  Out of fear, sometimes we stockpile; we squirrel things away for a rainy day that might not ever come and we invest more in the dreadful future our imaginations construct than we invest in our present reality.

But the Jesus of John’s gospel appears to have lived with a constant awareness of abundance.  The introduction to John’s gospel tells us that “From Jesus’ fullness [or abundance] we have all received grace [layered] upon grace.”[iv]  What a beautiful image.  We don’t need to be anxious; don’t need to ever worry about running out or falling short.  Jesus came to offer us the abundance of God’s grace.

Today, show you love in an extravagant way to someone in your life.  Reveal through your living and giving that you trust in the abundance of God’s grace.

[i] John 2:1-11

[ii] John 6:1-14

[iii] John 12:1-8

[iv] John 1:16

 

The Return Journey

Posted on

During the season of Lent, I’m preaching a sermon series entitled The Journey.  Along with the weekly sermon, I’ll be blogging on my church’s website.  So I’ve decided to put those posts on this – my personal blog – as well.  Here’s the second week…

The Return Journey

see Luke 15:11-32

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul…                                     
Psalm 23:1-3a

The 23rd Psalm is, undoubtedly, one of the best known passages of scripture.  Even those who are nominally religious know it.  As dependable as death and taxes is the response when you ask a grieving family about scripture for their loved one’s funeral… the answer every time:  the 23rd Psalm.

Another well-known scripture is the parable of the prodigal son in Luke’s gospel, chapter 15.  Of all the metaphors for spiritual growth, the metaphor of a journey is the one I like the best.  I always tell people that Christianity is not really so much a belief system as it is a relationship with a living God who came to us as a person, born in flesh in a particular time and place; who desires to walk with us along our life’s journey.

Long ago I read that sheep can get lost by grazing themselves away from the herd nibble by nibble… one blade at a time, wandering off.  As a matter of fact, Caribou have been known to starve because they come to a cliff or a body of water that is impassible and, having exhausted all there is to graze upon around them, they don’t know how to find their way back to where they started.

The prophet Isaiah says “All we like sheep have gone astray…”[i]  Certainly the prodigal son went astray.  Life must have been pretty sweet living with his father.  All of his needs were provided for.  But he went off looking for greener pasture, so to speak.  He went to a foreign land just looking to have fun and living for the moment.  But when he ran out of cash, a severe famine happened in that land and he must have been a little like that hungry caribou at the edge of the cliff.

If our lives as Christian disciples are viewed as a journey, it’s clear that many of us go off course from time to time.  Not necessarily as badly as the prodigal son did.  But we do find ourselves in a place we don’t want to be.  We find ourselves hungry for something more. Fortunately, like the prodigal son, we are able to process our options more effectively than the sheep and the caribou.  We can weigh out our possibilities and know that no matter what we’ve done or how far we’ve strayed, God will always welcome us home.  He is a Good Shepherd.

The journey of life is hard.  But we never need to resign ourselves to feeling hungry or empty or lonely.  God is there for us reassuring us that – no matter what we might think of ourselves – we are always precious children in the eyes of God.

If you would like to read the sermon connected to this devotion, just go to http://www.trinitylafayette.org/sermons

Join me for a lunchtime study of Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes that will take place during the Fridays of March, beginning March 4, at 12:15 p.m. at Sacred Grounds Coffee Shop in Lafayette.

[i] Isaiah 53:6a

A Worthy Word

Posted on Updated on

During the season of Lent, I’m preaching a sermon series entitled The Journey.  Along with the weekly sermon, I’ll be blogging on my church’s website.  So I’ve decided to put those posts on this – my personal blog – as well.  Here’s the first week…

Scriptures: Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-6; Luke 4:1-4

 The story is told of a man who went on a diet. He was so committed; he even changed the route of his morning commute so as to avoid driving by his favorite bakery. Then, one morning, he showed up at work with a giant coffee cake. His co-workers questioned him and he replied, “This is a special coffee cake. This morning, when I drove by the bakery, it was in the window. So, I prayed, ‘God, if it is your will for me to eat that coffee cake, let there be a parking space open right in front.’ And, sure enough; the sixth time around the block, there it was.”

 When we hear the word temptation, we often think of situations that present us with opportunities to indulge in decadent, immoral or inappropriate behaviors; opportunities that threaten to undo our individual will power or self-restraint. Many view the custom of “giving up something for Lent” as an opportunity to strengthen individual will power.  But spiritual temptation involves far more than our will power or self-restraint. Ultimately, it reveals how much we trust God and his Word.

In the gospel of Luke, the story of Jesus’ temptation is immediately preceded by two important sections of scripture. In Luke 3:21-22, we read that Jesus is baptized and a voice from heaven says, “You are my Son….” Then, we have a narrative interlude that consists of a genealogy (see Luke 3:23-38). It is a genealogy that works its way backward from Jesus to the very first man, Adam. Adam, too, the gospel writer tells us was a “son of God.”

As Genesis, chapters 2 and 3 reveal, the first man and woman were also tempted; tempted to eat from a forbidden tree. In a garden filled with food, God had announced one tree as being off limits. But the interaction with the serpent causes the woman – and subsequently the man – to question God’s Word. The serpent plants the seed of doubt that God is holding back on them. What was once a healthy boundary becomes a dubious barrier. The man and woman fail to trust in the Word of God.

However, in Luke, chapter 4, Jesus resists the devil’s test. His response in verse 4 is a portion of a verse from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, chapter 8, verse 3, which concludes: “one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

The writer of Luke reminds us that Adam, also, was a son of God; but a son who failed to trust God’s Word. Jesus lives according to God’s Word and God’s will. Even better still, when we place our trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, his Holy Spirit makes a home within us and changes us from the inside out. We, too, learn to live from a place of trust, rather than fear and anxiety. The apostle Paul tells us that, by trusting in Jesus and receiving his Spirit, we can “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

 Is there an area of your life where you are being tested? Are you wrestling with doubt, uncertainty, or fear? Pray now and ask God to place his Holy Spirit in you so that today you may walk in trust and obedience and experience God’s peace. Amen.    

If you would like to read the sermon connected to this devotion, just go to http://www.trinitylafayette.org/sermons