When I am driving somewhere I often go to Google maps to find directions. It is a simple process. You type in where you are starting from and where you are going. As if by magic a number of routing opportunities appear, complete with details of how long each one will take and related traffic information. There are other apps that will tell you, as you travel, what the traffic conditions are, and suggest alternative routes.
We have started our Lenten journey towards Easter. We started on Ash Wednesday and our destination is Easter, but how are we going to get there? Some of us may have adopted disciplines or be 'giving something up' for Lent. How will these impact our journey? Will our journey include particular stopping places for refreshment or refueling? Will there be unwelcome traffic along the way? Unexpected diversions? Road blocks? Accidents? Six weeks is a long journey!
Last Sunday, here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian, we were talking about how the mission of Jesus began, with Jesus proclaiming; "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." (Sermon: “It Starts!” right here). This Sunday we reach a point on the road where Jesus begins to explain to the disciples “That the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31)
This information is too much for one of the disciples, Peter, to handle. This wasn't the route he thought that they should be taking. So Peter takes Jesus aside, as if to say “You must be kidding me! You shouldn't even suggest things like that!” Jesus is not impressed and has to strongly rebuke Peter with the words "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." (Mark 8:33) He then teaches the disciples... and anybody else that seeks to follow Him... that the journey was for those willing to take up their cross and walk with Him.
This was hard teaching and it was not easily taken on board by even the first disciples, who walked so closely alongside Him, and had left everything to be His followers. None of us are exactly overjoyed when it is revealed to us that the road ahead is fraught with danger and unanticipated suffering. Our natural inclination is to seek another route.
It is only when we reach Easter that the revelation comes, that though Christ died, God raised Him from death. That His suffering is for our sins. That because of what Jesus is doing the world is about to receive a revelation of God's love that was far greater in depth than anybody could ever have perceived. A revelation that turns upside down and inside out many of our preconceptions about life on earth. "For God so loved the world that God gave God's only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
As we travel through Lent we are blessed to know how the story turns out. So when our travels and meditations take us to uncomfortable places, let us be prepared to sit with them for a while... in the light of what is coming at the end of the journey. Let us welcome the insights the season offers, and if necessary, amend our lives accordingly.
Because that's what we do on journeys! For some music “God Will Make A Way” by Don Moen.
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.