Journeys – May 1, 2011

Genesis 12:1-8, Luke 24:13-35

May 1, 2011

On Maundy Thursday, we shared our traditional Agape Feast, and communion. And as we did, we noted how many important things in our lives take place in the context of a meal. Think about it. Family dinners used to be the anchor of family life! (And now many families don’t have the time for those meals as they once did, and I think it’s no wonder that families today are suffering!) That’s one example. We also have meals with friends. We have “business lunches.” We have dinner dates. (How many of your “first dates” included a dinner?) Meals are important!

Well, our lives of faith are no different. Here we have church dinners, and we always talk about how great they are! And that’s nothing new! The feasts of the people of God have always been important. It’s not surprising that Jesus’ first miracle took place at a wedding feast. Many of his parables talked about feasts. His greatest miracle was considered to be the feeing of the 5,000. And it’s no coincidence that the two salvation stories of the Bible are centered around meals – the Passover of the Old Testament, and the Lord’s Supper of the New Testament.

Well, I’d like you to consider today that a lot also happens in our lives in the context of a journey. Think about that. Isn’t there something about going to a place, taking a journey to that place, that makes it special? We all like to “go” on vacation, don’t we? At least we consider it more of a “true vacation” when we are able to “go away!” However, not long ago I started to hear people using a new word – the word “stay-cation.” Have you heard that one? That’s when you stay at home for a vacation. But it’s not quite the same, is it? There’s something special about going – about journeying to a different place.

Think of the journeys of your life. What were they? Where did you go? Maybe it was a long car trip. Maybe you went to another country or another continent. Maybe you’ve taken annual journeys to visit relatives or friends. Maybe you’ve made some emergency trips. Are any of those journeys high points in your life? It seems like every time I turn around someone I know is going to Disneyland!! (Does it seem that way to you??) That’s a special place to many people! Maybe you have your special place in this world where you like to go!

When we move to a different place, it can be one of the major times of our lives, can’t it? It can certainly be the most traumatic. It used to be that people lived their entire lives in one place, but that’s not so any more. Many of us uproot several times in our lives and move to a different place. I have to wonder what that was like for Abraham. That’s our first reading for today. And I have to wonder what it was like when God said, “Yo! Abe! Get up, pack up, and hit the road! I want you to go to a place I’m going to show you.” That journey was very much a part of the covenant God was making with him.

We often speak of life itself as being a “journey,” don’t we? We view time that way. We say that we “move though” this life. Time is always moving forward – whether we want it to or not! One of my early mentors in the ministry used to have a poster on his wall that said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” He loved that saying. He liked to say that we need to embrace the journey of life, and not just live as though the destination ahead is the only thing!

We also speak of faith as a journey. We even talk about our faith as being a “walk” with the Lord. I’ve often heard people ask, “How are you doing in your Christian walk?” Maybe you’ve heard that expression.

When I think of the journey of faith, I think of C. S. Lewis. His journey to faith was a literal journey! He describes his conversion to Christianity as being a time when he got on the train in one place, and though he doesn’t know exactly what happened along the way, by the time he arrived at his destination, he knew he believed! He knew he was a Christian. Maybe your experience is similar. You aren’t sure where along the way it happened, but you just knew that at a certain point in the journey of your life, you were a follower of Christ. (And by the way, even that word “follower” implies a journey, doesn’t it?)

I think “Journey” is a great word to use in this life! The other word we might use here is the word “pilgrimage.” “Pilgrims” are people who journey to an important place, often for reasons of faith and belief. That might be some kind of annual pilgrimage. Or it might be a once-in-a-lifetime event. In this country, we celebrate a certain group of pilgrims who came here on the Mayflower. That was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime journey, wasn’t it?

So, our story from Luke is about a journey, too. Actually, it’s probably about a return journey. These two men had been to Jerusalem, probably for the Passover. That was an annual pilgrimage for Jews living in that region. So there were thousands of “pilgrims” there at that time! And while these two men were on their way home, this stranger started walking with them. And like C. S. Lewis, when they arrived at their destination, they were changed men!

Their journey was an actual “journey,” wasn’t it? It was a journey of faith. It was a journey from non-belief to belief! It was a journey from sorrow to joy! It was a journey from despair to hope!! And Jesus was with them on it! That’s the drama and beauty of this story, isn’t it?

Maybe you’ve been on just such a journey! Maybe you’ve been going through a time of sorrow, despair, and maybe even non-belief. I think we all find ourselves on those kinds of journeys from time to time! So let me take this moment to assure you of a couple of things.

First of all, it is a journey! We are moving forward. But one of the things we “feel” in difficult times is that “it’s always going to be like this!” “This tough time is never going to end!” That’s a feeling, but it’s very real to us. It makes us think, “I’m never going to get out of this!” Well, let me assure you of one thing! It won’t always be like this! I think that’s very important to say! Of course, the downside is that it may get worse! But it won’t always be like this!

The other thing I want to assure you of is that God is with us! Sometimes it doesn’t “feel” that way either, does it? We get the “feeling” that God is there, maybe at the end of the journey, if only we will ”pull it together,” if only we will come around in our faith. If we will persevere, then things will be better, and God will be with us – someday! We need to know that, like this story, he is with us, even in the journey! Maybe we don’t know it. Maybe the relationship we have with him at the time is difficult. Maybe it’s one of tension – like the time in your car journey when the kids acted out and you had to reprimand them. So, for a while, there was that ominous silence. Maybe it’s like that! Or maybe it’s like when our spouse is trying to help guide us on the journey, and we’re too stubborn to listen. Maybe we’re saying to God, “No, God! I know where I’m going!”

Fortunately for us, God is patient! Fortunately for us God is gracious! Fortunately he doesn’t hold things against us like we humans do. He’s not only ready to help, whenever we reach out and let him, but he’s there ready to carry us – like that old story of the footprints on the shore. And God wants to be with us on the journey! It’s not a burden or a chore for him! He wants to be there!

Maybe, as we see ourselves on the journey, we’re not sure where we are. I’m sure these two men felt that way that day. Maybe we don’t even see a destination! But at least we’re moving!! I once knew a family who liked to take vacations by loading up the motor home, driving out to the end of the driveway and flipping a coin to see what direction they would go. And all along the way they kept doing that. They had no destination in mind. Can you imagine doing that? Actually that’s not a bad way to go! Sometimes we’re so fixed on that destination, we forget to enjoy the ride! Sometimes we’re so fixed on seeing the sights that we miss what we might see if we were just open to it!

But that can be very uncomfortable, too! Some people aren’t sure where they’re going. Their lives lack direction. They’re doing the same thing day after day, just because it’s they’ve always done and they don’t see any other way. Maybe that’s you. Again, I will say, God is with us. If we ask him, he’ll direct us, but he rarely kicks us in the back and sends us places. (Though that does happen!)

Some people know they’re on the journey, but they don’t like where they’re going, and they don’t know what to do about it. Maybe that’s you! Well, let me tell you. God can help us make major changes, too. And not only is his guidance available to us, but so is his strength. A friend recently said to me, “I know my weaknesses. I know the things that take me down a bad road. And I know I need Jesus to walk beside me. I can’t avoid those things without him.” I don’t know about you, but I think that shows incredible wisdom!

Now, I know some of you have already gotten where you were going. You’ve reached your “destination!” Much of our society is geared toward retirement, though more and more people are becoming less and less prepared for it. But many of you are at the point where you’re now looking back on your journey. And that’s great! You’re in the best position to celebrate the journey! And you can help show the rest of us how to do that!

So, I want you to leave here today with visions of your life as a journey – like these two disciples on the road to Emmaus. How do you know where you’re going? How will you know you’re arrived? Will you listen to the traveler who accompanies you along the way? He is waiting patiently to talk with you, To guide you, and to lead you along the way! It’s up to you to listen. But it must be a conscious choice to do so! So, what will you do? Will you turn to him? Will you seek to follow? Will you embrace the journey together??

Prayer

Lord, help us as we too travel the long road of life. Like the disciples on the Emmaus road, help us to talk with you along the way, and to be inspired by you to seek your kingdom and tell others about it. May our hearts burn within us, and may the flame of your spirit burn brightly within us. This we pray in Jesus’ name, and for the sake of his kingdom, Amen.

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