I’ve made enough road trips to Florida to dread the 18 hours it takes to get to Fort Myers. We have tried leaving at all hours of the night hoping we could cheat ourselves into feeling like the trip was shorter, but every time it’s still the same long drive. The only thing that has made a difference is when that internal auto-pilot kicks in and without realizing it hours go by like seconds until someone yells, “I’ve got to go to the bathroom!”, and we are jolted back to awareness and wonder, “Where did all the time go?” Zoned out driving, some may call it, happens when we fall back into a deep place in our thoughts while some another part of us watches the road. Under these conditions our sense of time is suspended, as if we blinked and arrived at our destination.
In our haste to get somewhere better than where we are it can be hard to resist the temptation to accept anything that would help us “zone out”, skip over the long wait, and avoid the difficult work of being fully present to the journey. Too often success is measured in the arrival at a place rather than the hundred different opportunities we had along the way to grow, to build deeper relationships, to expand our understanding of God, to change course, and yes, even to fail. The problem is that we can become so determined to make good time and get there, that we fail to make much good out of our time.
I know that some travels are unwanted, painful, or uninteresting, but as long as our approach to making good time involves zoning out or wishing the time away, we will fail to tap into a critical source of motivation to change: our frustration with what is happening right now.
This is just a taste of what we will explore on Sunday. Join us as we continue our road trip and discover a little more of what we need to make the most out the life God has given to us.
When was the last time you missed a road sign or read one the wrong way and ended up lost? Missed signs can send us on a detour that only ends in the frustrating realization that we are going the wrong way. It takes a lot of work and time to change course, retrace our steps or carve out a totally new path that gets us to the destination. The experience of being lost or misreading the signs rings true for us personally, but we also see it happening within society and the Church. Communities and organizations misread the signs everyday and draw conclusions that become the start of heading the wrong way. This Sunday we will hear once again that through the life of Jesus, God has provided what we need to read the signs and to find our way.
Pretty soon you’re juggling more luggage than a skycap. No wonder you’re so tired at the end of the day. Carrying all that baggage is exhausting.”
Is your life headed in the direction that you imagined it would be? Has the journey been an easy one or a fight all along the way? While living a life is not without its surprise turns, we make the best of our travels when we understand and practice the rules of the road. Many have said, “It’s not about the destination, but how we make the journey that is most important.” If that is true then making the most of the journey can lead to a life that is more satisfying no matter what destination we may encounter. What are some of those rules you have come to live by?
On Sunday, April 14th, we begin a new sermon series called “Road Rules” that will remind us that God has also given us rules to live by, rules that can guide and shape our journey to any destination. The first rule is “Travel Light” and it speaks to all the things we take with us as we travel down the road. Sometimes each step forward can feel like a battle that leaves us looking for a way to stop or turn around. Our way may need to include some unpacking, lightening the load so that we find our strength and confidence once more. What are you carrying with you today that weighs down your journey? What do you need to unpack and leave behind so that you can keep moving forward?
Join us this Sunday as we explore the rules of the road and make this journey God has given us a great one.
Sunday, March 31
Read: Matthew 25:31-46
In his book on spiritual leadership, They Smell Like Sheep, Lynn Anderson argues that, of the of the three biblical models, shepherd, mentor, and equipper, shepherd is the best leadership model because, “A shepherd knows each sheep by name; he nurtures the young, bandages the wounded, cares for the weak, and protects them all. A shepherd smells like sheep.” He must have been thinking of this passage from Matthew. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, smelled like sheep.
Jesus calls us to model our lives on his. Welcome the stranger. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Care for the sick. Give the thirsty something to drink. Visit the prisoner. Live your life so you smell like sheep.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that those who: are poor in spirit, mourn, are meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness, are merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, persecuted, persecuted are the ones who will inherit the kingdom.
Living our lives for others is the message of this glorious Easter day. We serve a risen Savior who walked and talked with each one of us along the way. He invites us to help others experience the love of God in their own lives. In so doing, our lives will be filled with joy. We are Easter People who serve a living Lord!
Pray: Risen Lord, I celebrate the glorious reality that we are all your people. Help me to recognize you in all whom I meet and serve. Amen.
Friday, March 29th
Read: John 13: 36-38
Jesus knew that Peter would deny him three times. Have you ever been so moved with love for the Lord that you felt as though you would do anything to please Him? I have. I even went so far as to profess my devotion out loud once and then reality sunk in. Could I really give up my family and financial security to follow him completely? No, I am really far from being that spiritually evolved. Few of us are able to make leaps of faith like those made by the likes of Saint Francis or Mother Theresa. The important thing to focus on for the rest of us, is that we continue on our spiritual journey. As we grow we become more useful to the Lord. That pleases Him and gives us joy.
Pray: Inspirational one, thank you for examples set by people who have become spiritually amazing. Thank you for opportunities to grow and serve you. Amen.
For Wednesday, March 27
Read: John 12:27-36
Jesus’ heart is troubled because he was human and dreaded the crucifixion. He has come to this hour through the will of God. He glorifies God’s name, and a voice comes from Heaven saying, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd hears the voice. Some think it is thunder; others think an angel had spoken to Jesus.
The voice was meant for the people, not Jesus. He tells them Satan will be defeated. Jesus describes himself as being lifted up from the earth and drawing all men to himself. The people believed the Messiah would remain forever, so they ask, “Who is this Son of Man?” They expected him to be a savior who came to set up an earthly kingdom that would never end, not someone who would be leaving the earth
Jesus warns them that his light will be with them only a little longer and enjoins them to become the “sons of light.” Do we walk in the light of Christ to guide others to God? Jesus told us to “pay it forward,” to let his light shine through us and allow others to see Christ in our actions. That is an awesome responsibility — to be lights in the darkness of our world. Are we able to fulfill this request from Jesus? Can we be sons of light? With God’s assistance and with the love of Christ in our hearts, we can begin to accomplish what is asked of us. May we use this Lenten season to renew our faith and be true followers of the Christ who died for us.
Pray: Father, help me as Christians to be a light to the world. May I pay Christ’s love forward in my relationships with others. Amen
Read: JOHN 12:12-19
A crowd of people who had come for the feast of Passover heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. He had just raised Lazarus from the dead. They came bearing palm branches and shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the King of Israel.” Only Jesus knew that before this week was over, these same people would be crying, “Give us Barabbas.” They turned against him because he did not fulfill their concept of him as the Savior who would restore Israel to the glory of David’s reign.
The disciples did not understand. In Zechariah it had been prophesied that the King would come seated on a donkey’s colt. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that much had been written about Jesus in Scripture. The Pharisees also knew Scripture but did not choose to recognize the King because they feared Rome and could have lost their power and prestige.
Do we choose to look away from the truth of God’s word when things do not go as we have planned? Are we so focused on own well being and comfort that we don’t see the needs of others? Or do we, like the psalmist, know that the Lord will provide in times of trial and need. As we move through Holy Week with Hosannas for our King, may we recognize that God is always with us, that He is in control of our lives.
Pray: Let us use the truth of Scripture, God’s word, as our guide. Let us recognize Christ for who he is, not one who came to restore the world but one who came to change the world.
Tuesday, March 19
Read: Psalm 89: 1-18
Whenever I read the Psalms I think about the role they played in reminding the community of something that could easily be forgotten. The text begins with a reminder of God’s steadfast love and ends with shields that hold power because they belong to God. In between are numerous affirmations of God’s power that is evident in every aspect of life and living. Do all of these affirmations represent what the community already believed to be true or what they needed to believe through repeated reminders? Our human experience is full of enough ambiguity and uncertainty that even the strongest Christian can lose hope and despair. Belief in a God that loves us can slowly erode when we have to battle unmovable obstacles, suffering without a clear purpose, and loss that makes no sense.
I can imagine how the Hebrew people sang this Psalm over and over again and slowly the message of God’s love and strength sank in. Slowly the deep valley’s they faced lost their power to erode hope. Slowly, the unmovable obstacles began to budge. That is still the work of God today, slowly building and rebuilding our lives as we come back over and over again to sacred songs and holy words, until we have remembered them so many times that they become part of who we are.
Pray: Relentless God, grant me the stubbornness needed to keep coming back to words that remind me of your unshakeable love and sustaining power.