Don’t Stop Believing – March 20, 2019, Wednesday Lenten Service
Wednesday Lenten Service
March 20, 2019
When it was first suggested that we use the theme of “Journey” for our Lenten Services, the first thing that came to my mind was the phrase I’m using for the title of this message, “Don’t stop believing.”
Now, I know that some of you might be a little too old to know that reference. And some might be too young, which makes me feel old! But “Don’t Stop Believing” was a song which was released in the year (?) 1981, by a band called “Journey.” (You get it? I’m glad to hear some of you are going with me on this!)
That’s the first thing. The other thing that came to mind for me was something I first heard in 1978 – a few years before that. I was a Junior in Seminary then, and I was a student pastor at the Macalestor-Torresdale Presbyterian church, which was right down the road from here in the Northeast. I was by there just the other day. The pastor then was Al Bauer. Does that name sound familiar to anyone? Al was a mentor to me in those days, and I’m thinking maybe an inspiration for my future! Because Al was often seen “tooling around” Northeast Philly on his little Honda Motorcycle! (He was quite a sight!)
Well, Al had heard an expression that has stuck in my mind ever since. And he was really jazzed about it. He even made it into a sign that he put in the back window of his car! It said, “Life is a Journey, not a Destination.” Does that sound familiar to any of you? I think that was at least part of the thinking that inspired this theme. The idea is the life is a journey. It is ongoing.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began,
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
(Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien)
The Journey is the continuing story of all the things that happen to us every day. It’s about all the people we meet along that journey, and how our paths have crossed.
The Journey is also about how our paths sometimes change. Remember the story of the “Road to Emmaus,” which speaks of God taking us down new paths of understanding.
Remember the story of the “Road to Damascus.” That tells us that, like he did with Saul, God can change our heart and change the entire direction of our journey
And of course, at this time of year, we think of the journey to the cross. Our savior was on that journey throughout his ministry, but especially after that time the Gospel writers tell us that “He resolutely set his face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51)
So, “Life is a Journey, not a destination” That has stuck with me. And I’ve known people who don’t seem to get that. They seemed to be “working themselves to death.” And when I’ve asked them about it, they said, “I’m doing it so I can retire someday and enjoy life.” Well, I think we were meant to enjoy life along the journey, too! As you may have heard before, nobody ever said on their death bed, “I regret that I didn’t spend more time at the office!”
[I’ve also known people who’s faith was all about the destination. Everything had to do with going to heaven after they die. And of course, that’s great! But it seemed their focus was still solely on the arrival at that destination.]
My thought is that ”The life of faith is also a journey, not a destination!” And I feel lead once again to this analogy Paul gives in Hebrews 12. “We run with perseverance the race set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” (“author and finisher.”) I know that reference is about a race, but it’s a similar thing. It is this journey along the road. And I believe we were meant to enjoy the journey, to experience the journey along the way.
But that word perseverance is a big part of it. Because life is not always easy. And this phrase I started with “Don’t stop believing,” goes right along with that. Because there are times that it’s not easy to keep going. There are times when it’s not easy to “keep the faith.”
That’s one of the things I love about Lent. I love all the extra events and reminders. I love the special things we do this time of year to did deeper, to remember what it truly is that God has done for us! Lent is a time to remember the journey of faith we’re on, and perhaps what has brought us to this point. For me, it’s a time to look back on my life of faith and think of the events and the milestones along the way. And of course, Lent is a time to consider how we can better walk with Jesus along that journey.
Those are all good things to do! I like to think of Sunday morning as a time to practice worshipping together so that we can remember better to do it all week – and I’m not always sure it is. Well, Lent is a time to remember the how important it is that we walk this journey of life with our savior so that we remember better to do that all year!
I say all this because I know I need these things! And I’m betting I’m not alone! We all need to remember. And here’s another one of those passages that helps me along the journey. Paul wrote this one to the Philippians. “One thing I do,” he said, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”(Philippians 3:13-14)
I other words, “Don’t stop believing!” There are times along the way we might feel unsure. There are times we might stray from the road of faith. There are times we might question the road we’re on. Is it the right road? There are times we see clearly, as we “look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,” and then there are times we can’t see so clearly.
That’s a big reason why we are the Church. We don’t go on this journey alone. I love the description Paul gives at the beginning of this passage. “Therefore, since we aresurrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance…” We are on this journey together! And it’s all about all those wonderful New Testament words, words like “encouraging,” “upbuilding,” and my favorite, “edifying.” Those things are so powerful! And they are so important to do for each other, as we walk together along this journey!
I was in a marathon a number of years ago, and it was late in the race, and I was hurting! And I was walking! And it was a big race, so there were hundreds of people along the street and they’re all shouting encouragement! “Come on, you can do it!” “You’re almost there!” But then, I’ll never forget one woman, in a business suit and dress shoes, who not only shouted her encouragement directly to me, but she stepped down off of the curb, and started running alongside me! Let me tell you, no matter how much you’re hurting, if a woman in a business suit and dress shoes starts running along beside you, you run!
That’s encouragement! That’s upbuilding! We’re on this journey together! And since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus. May we press on toward the goal. May we keep the faith! And may we strive to encourage and walk beside each other. And may we say to each other, and to ourselves, don’t stop believing!
Eternal God, we thank you for the journey of faith we’re on. We thank you for your spirit in our hearts as we persevere. We thank you that you have promised to walk beside us. And we thank you that you put us on this journey together. Help us to upbuild and encourage each other along the way. Together we praise and worship you. And we pray in our Savior’s name, Amen.