Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.”
Luke 18:31 (NRSV)
Dear siblings in Christ, I believe that most of us have experienced a pivotal moment in our lives. Life sometimes feels easy, as if we can turn on the cruise control. Then an unexpected event makes us change not only the plan but our way of life. Life is like those days when Pr. Jade and I go hiking in the winter. We begin the hike with our hiking boots walking easily on dry ground having control of the terrain. However, when snow and ice begin to cover the trail, we need to pivot. What took us to that point would not necessarily take us where we want to go. At that point, we need microspikes, trekking poles, and a new way to walk. Moreover, we need a new attitude and the willingness to endure a harder new way to walk and stay up. On one occasion, Pr. Jade noticed the ice and snow were making the walk slippery and very difficult. She put on her spikes and strongly encouraged me to do the same. With confidence I said, “no.” It took no more than a few minutes before I started sliding down, and the inevitable happened. Yes, I was on the ground not being able to stand. The boots that had taken me there certainly would not take me where we wanted to go. Reluctance to pivot and the belief that things need to happen in my terms prevented me from seeing and hearing that, in order to get to our destination, I must be humble, vulnerable, and willing to change. The disciples had been walking with Jesus for nearly three years. They probably had gotten used to some sort of rhythm. In today’s daily lectionary reading passage, the Lord Jesus foretells of his death for the third time. He is telling them that not only are things changing for them, but that they will need to be open to the new reality that they are going to face. What had brought them to where they were, was not going to take them where Jesus needed them, from “Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Things were going to turn different and difficult. They would need to be open to the guidance of the Spirit, and to new possibilities. They would be joining the Lord’s mission to work on making God’s new order tangible through their lives and words. What they were used to doing while they were walking with Jesus would change. They would be “building” a community that was not only for them but for the people who they did not even know! How many times do we come to believe that our goal and purpose as a congregation is to build a church for ourselves which we join because we like it the way it is? What would it mean for us to be part of the church, embracing the idea that we are working alongside the Spirit to build a community not only “for me” but for other people whom God is calling? Maybe you, like me, cannot believe that the season of Lent is coming to an end. This Sunday we will celebrate Palm Sunday as we enter Holy Week. Jesus’ journey is leading him to face a new reality in his life as one of us and one for us. The season of Lent is a journey in which you and I have reflected on the Lord’s assurance that even in our brokenness, we are good enough. Such assurance strengthens us to face this life confidently, with willingness to let go of that which prevents us from living a life free from death, anxiety, and a scarcity mindset. For the past few weeks many of us in the congregation have been reading two books which focus on the theme of being enough. Each author addresses the idea of being and having enough from two different perspectives. In all honesty, I was wrestling with one of the books. I initially (like with the spikes) was reluctant to fully engage with it because it did not speak directly to my personal experience. But, as we walked the journey together, the Spirit helped me to hear from my siblings in Christ who are participating how the book has spoken and helped them to remember God's grace and loving care for them even in their brokenness. I was called out and taken by the Lord to my own Jerusalem. It was not about me, but about the Lord showing me God’s grace in action in the lives of others. The experience reminded me of that day when the Lord “took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem...” He called them to see and hear of “the strange love of a strange God,” as the German writer Esther Maria Magnis says. What had led me to where I was before we read the books, was not going to take me to where the Lord wants me and needs me. What prevents you from allowing the Spirit to change you and be willing to go where God wants you to be? Let’s think for a moment of the difference it would make if we were open to the work of the Spirit to free us from the desire to have things done (in daily life and in the congregation) in the way I like them or the way that I am used to. What does it mean for you and me when something that does not speak to me is speaking to the person next to me during worship? And vice versa? What will happen when we let the Lord take us to those places where we are to die to our fears, anxieties, and the idea of not being good enough, so that we can rise to a new life? We may agree on this, it is not easy. Maybe it is not appealing. But I cannot recall any instance in which the Lord said that to follow him would be an easy way. Joining God’s mission requires being vulnerable, yet bold. Jesus prayed asking God to remove the cup (Luke 22:42). There is no doubt that as we continue walking this journey, we will find obstacles that in many cases will cause us to turn back to what we know, what we are used to, and what no longer works in this new reality. Our fears that we will be left alone deter us from seeing life, healing, and wholeness, even at times when things are not what we want. As we walk this journey, may the Spirit help us to remember that in the midst of change, obstacles, and disorientation we are not alone. Instead, we are known, we belong, and we are made whole. May we be able to see that in the Lord we are able to let go in order to see what God is making new.
“The church, with its message, with its word, will meet a thousand obstacles, just as the river encounters boulders, rocks, chasms. No matter; the river carries a promise: “I will be with you to the end of the ages” and: “The gates of hell shall not prevail” against the will of the Lord.” - Archbishop Oscar Romero, December 8, 1977