Sermon – October 19, 2003 – The Journey

In about two months, the final chapter of the epic film, “The Lord of the Rings” is due to hit the theaters. I can hardly wait. It is an inspirational story of the triumph of good over evil, of the suffering that that journey entails, of the risks of remaining true, and of the hope for all of God’s people. In that story, a little hobbit, a small race of human like creatures, innocent and kind, is charged with the responsibility of destroying the One Ring. If he fails, and it falls into the hands of the evil Sauron, then all of Middle Earth will fall under his cruel and destructive power. The Ring is the key to the Dark Lord’s evil power. There is only one way, one path to the ring’s destruction, through the heart of the Dark Lord’s country, to the volcanic fires of Mount Doom where the ring might be cast and finally destroyed. The fate of all, men, Elves and Dwarves, lies in the hands of this little hobbit. And as we are taken along on that journey we see revealed !
loyalty, faith, perseverance, sacrifice, hope, unity and and undying love for creation. On this journey, was no short cut for Frodo the Hobbit.

Now, JRR Tolkein, the author of the books on which the movie is based, was a devout Christian, practicing Roman Catholic, and I am convinced that his story is a metaphor for the journey to which we are called. A journey where deviation from the path bodes danger, but where love, perseverance, faith and hope, are revealed as the truly great powers in the universe.

Short cuts make long delays”, so says the old saw. I’m pretty sure that there is not one among us who hasn’t taken another route, which looked like a short cut, so easy, only to find ourselves wandering through the back roads or unfamiliar streets, delayed and confused and far from our destination. Short cuts almost always seem to take us from the appointed path to another wandering that takes us far from where we want to go. Short cuts make long delays.

The disciples today are looking for a short cut to glory. “Lord, give us whatever we ask of you, to sit one at your right hand and one on your left, in your glory.” They were looking for a short cut to glory. Now, any coach, and business leader, any teacher, any parent will tell you that there is no short cut to desirable goals. And that is because most of the time, the journey is the glory, the journey is the destination, that which we seek is found more on the journey that when we finally arrive.

The disciples were seeking a short cut to glory and they thought they knew what they were asking, but they didn’t know where they were going. Probably it was power and authority, to rule with this Messiah King when he takes over.

We are seeking, as believers, glory. We, too, are seeking from this Jesus, his stamp of approval, his confirmation of our place with him. But it is not the secular authority and power that is our goal, but the glory of the certainty of Christ’s eternal presence, for assurance of his place and purpose in our lives. For us, truly the journey is glory. We are called to walk with Christ. That in itself is glory, that alone is fulfillment, that alone is reason for rejoicing, and that alone is enough. It’s enough because Jesus says it is. And it’s enough because it is often a difficult journey. Any other way is not enough, any other way takes us from the journey, any other way takes us from the goal, any other way is too easy.

So, when we make the claims that we want to share in Christ’s glory, then the only way to get there is to walk the way of the Cross, walk the way of Christ. As individuals, don’t we often say we want to grow in faith, we want to have a better understanding of Jesus. In order to do that, we have to make the journey. We have to come to worship, engage in Bible study, talk to our friends and families and pastors about the faith, we have to pray. There is no short cut to a deeper spiritual fulfillment. Remember in the 14th Chapter of John, Thomas says, “Lord we don’t know the way. How could we know the way?” And Jesus answers him, “I am the way and the truth and the live.” There’s the journey. To follow this Jesus is to engage him in all the places where he makes himself known: in worship, in prayer, in Bible study, in the eyes of strangers, in the midst of families, in the bread and wine of Holy Communion, in the waters of baptism. And as we walk, as we proceed,!
we discover the glory, the presence of Christ and the assurance of forgiveness, the call to healing and hope.

As congregations, we say we want. . . we want to grow in faith, we want to grow in numbers, we want to be the gathering place for people who don’t know God or who are on the borders of faith may come to know him and share and walk on this journey of God’s people. Same story, if that is what we want, then we have to be willing to embark on the journey, to reach out, to develop a congregational life that lifts up and proclaims the grace of God and flings open its doors to any and to all, to take the risks the journey calls us to do, even if it means leaving behind or changing things, ways, patterns. To sacrifice and give up, to share. And on that journey we discover the glory of Christ’s community, the glory of sharing God’s word and grace.

As a nation, if we say we want peace and wholeness and unity in the world, then we have to make that journey informed by our faith. If that’s what we want it is not enough to grumble across the coffee table about war and violence and hatred, but rather we must step out on the road to peace and take whatever chances we must to build it. And we, then, too, will discover the glory of brotherhood and sisterhood and hope, and finally, finally, peace. There is no short cut.

We finally begin to come to know this truth when we hear and heed the words of Jesus’, that “It is not so among you.” That on this journey, in my path, my followers are to put their aspirations of power and control behind them, in order to follow the way and pursue the greatest goal, life with Christ and service to one another. The journey that Christ calls us to is the way of the cross, the way which takes us to that which we seek, but not without challenge, change and some suffering, but through it we find healing and wholeness, unity and hope. There is no way to heal the world without a cost to our time, our agendas, our old ways of thinking. That’s why the Bible calls it ‘new life.”

Finally, what frees us most for the journey is the understanding that Christ, through his life, death and resurrection has freed us from the captivities, the other voices that would take us from the journey. The loud and contentious voices that seek to drown out the call of faith.

As with Frodo the Hobbit, there are no short cuts on this journey, but it bodes for us the revelation of the true powers of the universe, love, perseverance, faith and hope. We know these great powers, these great truths because we have seen them. We have heard them in the story of Jesus. We know them because by his life, death and resurrection he has freed us from the powers, the enticements, the false hopes that would take us on a different journey, purposeless and dark. To walk the way of the cross is to recognize how he has prepared the way for us, how he gives us authentic claim to walk in his steps. Understanding this truth is in recognizing what he has done for us, the one who says, “I am the Son of Man who has come to serve you, and call you to my path. And to put God’s eternal seal on it, I give for you my life. I come to redeem you from your captivities, which hold you from this journey, which take you from the truth. I have come to ransom your life from m!
eaningless journeys down dark and endless roads. I’ve come to ransom your life from the powers of evil that rejoice in your wandering. I have come to suffer and die so that you might live and serve and walk with me on this glorious journey.”

Short cuts make long delays. There is no short cut to glory, but there is a path. Jesus has shown us the way and he bids us today to come and follow.

Amen

Copyright (c) 2003 by Pastor Robert J. Rasmus