They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. St. Mark 10:32
They were on a Journey! The disciples may not have realized it when they agreed to follow Jesus, but they were in for quite a trip. Many of the disciples thought they were signing up for something that would bring them all kinds of immediate personal benefits. Jesus is the Messiah, so it stood to reason that those closest to him would receive some important rewards when Jesus made himself known and expelled the Romans. So finally, here they are, on the road towards Jerusalem, but it wasn’t going well. Jesus keeps talking about being crucified and dying and being raised. And when Peter tried to “correct” Jesus’ understanding of what it means to be Messiah, Peter got into a lot of trouble. And at every turn it just seems that these poor disciples can’t do anything right. Jesus is getting more and more frustrated and put out with them. In the passage quoted above, Jesus and the disciples are finally nearing Jerusalem. But this is far from the experience that the disciples had dreamed about. Mark’s description is very vivid: Jesus is out in front walking towards Jerusalem confident and with boldness; the disciples are straggling behind, afraid and confused.
I have had several opportunities in my life to take some major trips. There was my trip to Caracas, Venezuela in the early 80’s where I ended up living there for a couple years. And then a few years later I had the opportunity to travel to the Holy Land: to Egypt, Israel and Jordan. Both of these trips had a profound effect on me. I learned a lot about myself and it was my experiences especially in South America that led me to seminary and ordained ministry. That was not where I was expecting to end up at the end of that trip. But there it is. Our life journeys can lead us into some strange and unexpected places. Sometimes we might we are led kicking and screaming – sometimes we are anxious and willingly led. But we are on a journey.
Lent is a time to assess this journey. Where are you? Where is God leading you? What kinds of things is God trying to teach you? Are you like the disciples, straggling behind, afraid and confused, not sure where you are going; or are you moving confidently on the way? Our congregations are on a journey as well. In a few days the Wartburg Parish will officially start up and this will change us and lead us all in a new direction. I cannot tell you where I think it will lead us, because I do not know. This is new for us all. But one thing I can say for certain is that I know that God will be with us and that God will continue to transform us during this journey.
The disciples were focused on the death part of Jesus’ predictions, which is why I think they were so resistant. Maybe they just didn’t understand the “raising again” part. But the promise is that God will lead us from death to life; that no matter what, we are headed towards God’s promise of new life – for us and for our congregations. What do we do? We are called to pick up the cross of Christ, to bear the cross into our peculiar corners of the world – which means that we are called to bear Christ’s presence. Luther said that we are to be “little Christs” in the midst of the world. And we are to follow our Lord, confident that Jesus will be with us each and every step of the way.
In the few weeks that follow we will focus on this journey – specifically as it relates to our congregations. What does it mean that our congregations are called to follow Jesus. As we move forward on our Wartburg Parish journey, what are the implication for the maintenance, the ministry and the mission of the congregations of the Wartburg Parish. I will call it the 3-m’s – Maintenance, Ministry and Mission. Everything we do in our congregations falls into one of those categories. So what is the implication of our new Wartburg Parish journey on those 3-M’s. This will be the focus of the meditations in the weeks to come – but first, next week we will focus on prayer. For we need to be constantly in prayer as we move forward on the journey.
May God bless your journey – as we all together in Christ – move from death to life.