We welcome John and Diane Curry with music by Ed Kapsha
Photo by John Towner on Unsplash
On the Road Again
Grace to you and peace from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
God makes promises to us. The Holy Scriptures are full of such promises, as we have heard this morning. Because He is a merciful God, He usually promises to bless us in some way, to do something good for us or with us. Today’s reading from Genesis is a well-known promise—that God will bless Abraham and Sarah with a child in their advanced old age.
There is, however, a back story to that promise. Twenty-five years earlier, God promised Abram that God would make him the father of many nations and give his offspring the land occupied by the Canaanites. It was that call to Abram, and that promise, that led Abram to leave the land of his father and take all of his herds, possessions, and servants, and start his journey to the Promised Land. The Bible tells us a lot about Abram’s journey during that quarter of a century. Abram and Sarai had many adventures and scary experiences during those years on the road (and probably some off-road adventures as well).
During Abram’s time on the road, he sometimes did courageous and noble things, such as when he rescued Lot and his household from captivity, defeating Kedorlaomer and his allies. Abram refused to keep any of the loot he captured in the battle, which was almost unheard of at that time. Instead, he donated a tenth (a tithe) of his possessions to Melchizedek, Priest-King of Salem, initiating an example that we still emulate today, over 3500 years later. Other times, Abram was not so noble, such as when he passed off his wife as his sister in order to placate a king or two. But, through all of his adventures on the road, and even when he laughs at the prospect of becoming a father at the age of 99 years, Abram’s faith never wavered. It was his faith that made him righteous in God’s eyes.
For over three years, Jesus walked the dusty roads of Galilee, preaching and healing, and sharing God’s promise to the Jews and to the Gentiles. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus speaks plainly to his followers about the last leg of the journey: The Way of The Cross. Jesus tells them that he will be executed. They are at the end of the road, at least the end of the earthly portion of the walk with Jesus. Of course, Peter will have none of that, and he takes Jesus aside to rebuke Him. Jesus responds famously, “Get behind me, Satan!” He tells the disciples that they must take up their own crosses and follow him. Quite an invitation! Not the road upon which most people would choose to travel.
Just moments before this familiar exchange between Peter and Jesus came another well-known conversation between the two of them. Jesus asks His followers who they say He is, and Peter pipes up instantly, “You are the Christ!” Peter provides us with a splendid example of ourselves, in that he frequently shows his deep faith in and commitment to Jesus, then almost immediately takes a step in the opposite direction, revealing his imperfect humanity. Peter’s earthy and impulsive persona ultimately cannot detract from his unyielding faith in Christ. He did take up his own cross and follow Jesus as an example to us all.
The congregation of CLC Millvale is on its own journey. The road has not always been straight and smooth. Like Abram, CLC has experienced a variety of challenges, opportunities, and successes along the road during the past 25 years or so. Abram was a wealthy herdsman when God called him. He had many possessions and a large number of servants and relatives that were part of his household. Common sense required him to make some tough choices about what to take with him on the road to the Promised Land, and what to leave behind. Like Abram, CLC is at a point on the road where its people have to decide what to take with them and what to leave behind as they look to their future doing God’s work in Millvale. There is ample need for their ministry efforts; the members will need to decide which efforts to continue, which efforts to end, and what new efforts might be required. Wisdom and experience, guided by their faith, will lead the church along this new road.
The Apostles were faced with a monumental crisis after the crucifixion. Their leader had been executed, and they were in despair as to what to do next. The Resurrection showed them that Jesus was alive and still with them, though in a different way. When Jesus went up to heaven, the disciples were still unsure what to do next. Fortunately for them, and fortunately for us as well, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guide them, and us, on the new road. The early Christians referred to their developing new religion as The Way, or The Road, as we might interpret it today.
It is often difficult for us to decide what to take when we embark on a journey along a new road that is unknown to us. As Christians, we know that we want to take along our faith. Not only do we want to bring it, but we want to pack it right on top so we can grab it whenever we need it! Abram’s faith was always evident, as was Peter’s. We emulate these imperfect humans whose faith always seemed to remained strong.
It can also be difficult for us to decide what to leave behind. We can hold on to certain treasures, some tangible and some emotional, even when we know in our hearts that we should let them go. Anger is something that ought to be left behind. It can impede our progress on the new road and distract us from our mission that is motivated by Christ’s call to us. The words of American author and theologian Frederick Buechner describe the ultimate effect of carrying a load of anger on the journey into the future:
“Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back–in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”
Let us follow Christ in faith down the road of the future, trusting in Him to lead us. Jesus told us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”