Destination or Journey?
Indianapolis First Friends Quaker Meeting
Pastor Bob Henry
February 3, 2019
18 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? 19 It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”
20 And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with[a] three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
22 Jesus[b] went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.
My brother-in-law works in the motorcycle industry. He does not sell Harley Davidson motorcycles, but rather Triumph motorcycles. But one thing he knows is that the marketing managers at Harley Davidson do a really good job at what they do. Harley has always been good about finding slogans that fit their style – like the famous, “Born to Ride.” But if you remember in the ‘80s, Harley became a bit more philosophical with their slogan, “It’s not the destination. It’s the journey” (which they would often change to, “It’s the journey, so just ride!”). So true.
The marketers were honest that there are more efficient ways to get from where you are to where you want to go, than on the back of a motorcycle. But they were also clear that they don’t ride just to “get there.” If we ride, as the commercials said, it is because of the journey.
I think Harley Davidson was on to something – not just for motorcycle riding, but for all of life. Real life doesn’t happen on the straight line of the interstate. (That may seem backward to what often Christianity teaches). But I believe the best of life happens in the twists and turns of the side roads, the back ways, off the beaten path – it is on those “scenic routes” that we stop in awe and wonder, and experience life and our neighbors more fully!
In the Gospel of Luke, the writer makes it clear that Jesus had a destination in mind. What Judy just read today illustrates that point with the last verse:
“Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem” (Luke 13:22).
Luke introduces the reader to the journey way back at the end of chapter 9 where in verse 51 we read that Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Later in Luke 17:11 Jesus is described as “on the way to Jerusalem.” In 18:11 Jesus says, “we are going up to Jerusalem.” In Luke 19:28 we read, “After [Jesus] had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.” I think it is clear – Jesus had a destination. (Even Biblical scholars often call this section of Luke, 9:51 through 19:28 “Jesus’ Journey to Jerusalem.”) What is great, it that Luke invites us to come along for the ride.
In Luke 13:33 Jesus sums up well the purpose for his journey when he says,
“Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed away from Jerusalem.”
Jesus has a specific destination and purpose in mind. He is marching to Jerusalem. He knows that what he is doing is getting the people upset and already death threats have come his way because of his message. Yet he doesn’t take the Interstate to Jerusalem. Jesus knows where he is going, but he knows that it is not about the destination. It is the journey that matters. There is much to be done along the way.
If you just flip through your Bible looking at the headings, you will notice that on his way to Jerusalem Jesus takes the time to teach along the way. He also sends out his disciples to share good news. He takes time to tell stories (parables) of the good Samaritan, the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost son. He shares the importance of meditation and prayer. He confronts the religious leaders, and talks about reconciliation with those who have hurt you. He heals people who are sick. He shares about the kingdom, and even takes time to have dinner with an enemy (a tax collector) named Zacchaeus. For that matter, he even takes time to bless little children – all on his way to Jerusalem.
It seems Jesus took every opportunity presented to him to teach, heal, welcome, bless, and reach out to the people he met along the way. He was going to Jerusalem, but he never lost sight of the work to which he was called. There was more to his journey than just making great time and getting the job done. There were people along the way. People in need of a comforting word from God, in need of a healing touch, needing to know that they were loved. And there were also people to be confronted and systemic issues to be addressed.
Jesus could have made better time. He didn’t have to stop all along the way. But for him it was not just about getting from point A to point B. Jesus is noticing things along the way that truly matter. For Jesus it became not about the destination; it became a journey.
Jesus had this mission he was to accomplish, but he never lost sight of the importance of the people in his life, those he encountered daily.
A great modern day parable of this for us would be one of my boy’s favorite movies. A movie I have seen so many times, it begged me to see this connection.
That movie, is the Pixar movie, Cars. Probably most of us have seen it.
Lightning McQueen is an up and coming superstar in racing. He is very motivated, very self-focused, and very ready to become the celebrity he believes he deserves to be. Yet, we get glimpses in the movie of just how alone he has made himself, driving away anyone who might get in his way of getting to that Piston Cup.
When he gets stranded in Radiator Springs, that old town on Route 66, he learns about something more important – people. Well, in this case cars. Those around him who care about him for who he is, and not just what he can do. In the end, his heart softens and we see that for him the friends have become the central piece in his life. His presence brought a healing touch, he found love, and even confronted issues in the systems and lives of radiator springs. Obviously, Lightening McQueen is not a Messiah figure, but he is an example for us. Sometimes we focus on whatever is the “Piston Cup” of our lives and need to get off our usual beaten path to find our friends in Radiator Springs (which could mean in our families, in our workplaces, in our schools, wherever we interact with people).
In taking several driving trips across our beautiful country over the years, we have seen the valleys, the rivers, the animals, and the people. Each trip became a unique journey. I remember on our trip to Indianapolis a couple of summers ago, because we had sent all of our possessions by PODs, we took time to stop in many places, see the sites and experience the culture. Sure we had a destination, but it became a journey! Many of you followed us on that journey on Facebook and we started a relationship through that journey. Isn’t it interesting how important taking time for the journey really is.
Jesus seemed to have a similar sense as he walked the dusty streets to Jerusalem. He wasn’t just trying to get there. He was journeying.
I believe the passage we read this morning explains why he can do this. Jesus gives these two brief parables about the Kingdom of God – a mustard seed and yeast. There are several levels in which one could interpret these parables. Today I focus on just one of them.
Earlier in Luke 13 we find Jesus embroiled in another confrontation with a synagogue leader because, once again he brought healing on the Sabbath. In response to the indignation of this leader Jesus gives this great example pointing out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. He asks if they untie their oxen and donkeys to lead them to water on the Sabbath. If they think it is OK to do that “work” for animals on the Sabbath, how can they not see that it is OK for Jesus to do the “work” of healing real people on the Sabbath? So there is tension between those who put the rules over the people and Jesus putting the people over the rules. In the context of this conversation about the priority of rules and people Jesus gives these two, very short parables about yeast and a mustard seed.
One of the things that yeast and mustard seeds have in common in Jesus’ day was that they were small, ordinary, and easily overlooked. Yet in many ways they are miraculous. From the tiny mustard seed, an entire mustard tree is grown – large enough, Jesus says, that birds make nests in their branches. Yet if you are not looking for it, the seed is easily missed.
The same is true of the yeast. You cannot see the yeast in the dough, and yet when it is mixed in with the flour, it makes all the difference in the bread, causing it to rise. Everyday the people ate bread, not really thinking about the yeast and what it had done for the dough. It is easily overlooked, and yet it makes a great deal of difference.
Jesus took his time and was able to see what others often missed. One of the greatest was that Jesus saw people. I think of that line from the woman at the well who invites her friends to ““Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!” (John 4:29). She knew that Jesus had seen her. He was aware of the Kingdom of God all around him in the people he met. On the interstate of life, it is easy to miss those kinds of things, the ordinary blessings of the everyday.
In the book of Acts we learn that the very first Christians didn’t call their new-found faith Christianity. Rather they called it The Way. They also didn’t call themselves Christians, but “followers of The Way.” They saw themselves on a journey, and invited others to join them. They told stories about Jesus interacting with real people just like them, which helped them receive a new awareness of mustard seeds and yeast.
Contrary to our travels across the country, interstates aren’t awful. They are actually quite helpful and useful. But life is much more memorable when from time to time you don’t go for a drive just to make good time, but rather to have a good time.
The queries I want us to ponder today are,
· Do you need to get off the Interstate, and go and find the side roads or scenic paths?”
· Are you missing important things along the way?
· Are you so focused on the destination that you are missing the ride, the journey, the people in your life? Or to put it bluntly, are you missing God and God’s Kingdom on your way to your destination?
Maybe it’s time to take the next exit, slow down, and enjoy the ride. Let’s make this time of waiting worship a time to take an exit and slow down, so we can again enjoy the ride of life.
Patient God, we are people in a hurry.
We confess that we value faster more than deeper, and getting there more than growing.
We miss the tiger lily on our way to the art museum, the wren’s song on our way to the concert. God, we even miss the child on the way to the adult.
We hurry to do things ourselves, God, because your steady, deliberate slowness irritates and scares us.
Teach us to trust you so we can simply wait. We only know how to wait with fingers tapping.
God, some days we don’t have any fun.
We don’t have the time or the energy for fun.
We’re too busy trying – trying to get caught up, trying to make sense of our lives, trying to be better people.
God, show us when we try too hard.
Teach us not to be afraid to let go. Teach us to trust you. Teach us to be gentle with ourselves.
We confess that we think we’ve done some things right.
But sometimes it all feels like a perpetual struggle – between fear and love, anger and love, pride and love, pain and love;
A struggle between foolishness and wisdom, individualism and responsibility, how others define us and how we define ourselves.
We commit ourselves to keep on, but we get tired, impatient, angry, and scared, so then we give up and give in, then we fail you, each other, and ourselves.
Have mercy on us, forgive us, free us, love us, we pray. Amen.