It is hard to believe that three weeks ago Forrest and I were 3367 miles away on the other side of the Atlantic, enjoying the quaint vistas of Spain and Portugal. It is said that every journey begins with a single step. With that step comes planning. We didn’t just end up at Spain and Portugal out of the blue. It took weeks of research. We had to figure out what to wear, how to pack. Select just the right Airbnbs. Find the passports. Get our seat assignments. Decide where to visit. Get recommendations where to eat. Then there are the basics of the journey: we had to get a uber to the airport, go through security, fly 6 hours through five time zones - no six, counting the time in Spain. It’s so exhausting we need a vacation from planning the vacation!
Every good journey is a journey of journeys. There are shifting landscapes, new horizons and adventures, with always a goal, or series of goals in mind. This is true whether it’s a journey to the grocery store or doctor’s office…a journey toward sobriety or weight loss…the journey toward mastering a skill… a journey to Seville, Spain, Sinta, Portugal, or just this journey we call life. Or our journey of faith.
Our readings today have us reflect on journeys, what makes a good journey. When we catch up with Abram, he’s a man in his 80s. It has already been 25 years since he’s left his hometown of Ur and he has traveled with his household and flocks some 1,605 miles. That’s a lot of time and a lot of distance for an old man and his wife, Sarah.
His journey has been full of adventures, battles and travels. Despite all his success the one journey he has wanted so much has not materialized – the journey to be a parent. Incredibly he must face another 15 years of challenges before his child, Isaac, is born. 40 years of waiting. That’s a whole lifetime. That’s a lot of time for a lot of planning. How many people here have waited for 40 years for a promise to come true, for a journey to be completed?
Jesus is also on a journey from Galilee to Jerusalem in our lesson from Luke today. From Jesus’ home base in Capernaum it is about 85 miles to Jerusalem. In Luke’s gospel, this journey occupies nine out of 24 chapters, 40 percent of the narrative. This journey, therefore, is a significant story, a story of a determined Jesus whose goal is to makes his way to Jerusalem, to face his destiny of suffering and death, and be raised again.
In this passage, the verb which means “go” appear three times, in different ways, in succession. The Pharisees advise Jesus to go away (v. 31); Jesus tells them to "Go and tell that fox" (v. 32); and Jesus says that "I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the next day...” (v. 33). The choice about staying the course or leaving it is one we all face on our journeys. Jesus makes clear which way the Pharisees should go—and which way he will go. Jesus neither confronts Herod nor does he flee.
Instead, Jesus insists he will focus on his mission: "I will reach my goal." This phrase can be stated in a variety of ways: ––"I will be finished"––"I shall reach my goal"––"I will be brought to an end." This is the word that Jesus will use on the cross when he says "It is finished" (John 19:30). This combination of stating "the third day" and “I will reach my goal” tells us the cross is Jesus’ ultimate mission from which he will not be dissuaded.
Jesus has come to accomplish. Jesus is doing the will of God. Every day is a new journey, every day a choice whether to continue or not. Jesus chooses to stay the course. Jesus knows he goes to Jerusalem to die.
Jerusalem, Jesus’ destination, is the holiest city of the Jewish people. It is the home of the temple and the sacrificial rituals central to Jewish religious life. As Jesus indicated, Jerusalem had killed the prophets Uriah (Jeremiah 26:20-23) and Zechariah (2 Chronicles 24:20-21)––and had tried to kill Jeremiah (Jeremiah 38:4-6). One of Jesus' three temptations took place on the pinnacle of the temple (4:9-12) the chief priests, scribes, and religious leaders of Jerusalem will seek to kill Jesus (19:47-48) and ultimately succeed (22:66ff). So, Jesus intertwines his journey with that of the great City as well as with the journey of the great prophets before him. Jesus’ sacrifice is for Jerusalem, as well as for all people.
Jesus knew his journey and held fast to it. It was filled with ministry of healing, teaching and promise every day, in spite that the cross cast its shadow every step of the way. When we know where we are headed, when we have that goal in mind, we can act with great resolve. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche observed: “Those who have a ‘why’ to live can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
In one way or another, these are our stories, our journeys too. like Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. And Abraham’s. Lent teaches us we will all face challenges and difficulties. There is a purpose to our lives. Abraham and Sarah became ancestors of three major religions. Jesus brought us salvation. We are meant to work hard to bring hope into the world. Therefore Lent is not to depress us or bring us down, but guide us to live fully. However long or short our time is, it is up to us to reflect on our life’s journey. To plan. To be intentional. To make it our very best. All these stories inspire us, warn us and remind us to stay the course, to confront the choices before us, and decide wisely.
This Lent, plan a journey, like thousands of high school students did world wide when they organized protested and marched for climate change last Friday. This movement has been organized by 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg of Sweden Because of her efforts Greta has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Like Raeen Rashid, who boldly threw himself at a mass shooter in New Zealand to save the life of others. Greta and Raeen teach us that our true journey involves caring for the world, caring for others.
Claim your journey. Embrace the shifting landscapes and horizons. Make your goals. Start your journey, over, if you must, today. Like Jesus, Let us fill our journey with visits with loved ones, great learning, and be engaged with all who cross our path. Let us not be dissuaded from our call. On our way, let us make all journeys a part of the greater one, as we forge ahead in life and to life awaiting us in the eternal journey God has waiting for us, in Jesus, our Lord. Amen.