WORD FROM THE PASTOR: The Summer Road
As I write this, oil has reached a record-high $59 per barrel. It’s not hard to imagine that higher gasoline prices and higher air fares lie in the near future.
So we’re going to cancel all our summer travel plans, right? We’re going to stick close to home and not hit the road this summer...right? Yeah, right.
It takes more than a few extra cents per gallon of gas to keep Americans off the road. Because Americans love to travel.
America began with a journey–when the first Americans traveled across the land-bridge from Siberia in pre-historic times. America continued with journeys as people from Spain, Italy, England, France, and Africa came to the new land. And America grew with journeys as people from all over the world immigrated here.
We love a journey. So many of the books and movies that have captured our imagination–Huckleberry Finn, Moby Dick, The Grapes of Wrath, On the Road, even “The Wizard of Oz”–are about journeys. Somehow we sense that on the road, truth comes to light and reality emerges.
This is probably not a uniquely American trait–after all, many of the masterpieces of world literature (The Odyssey, Don Quixote, even Dante’s Divine Comedy) are about people traveling. But I think in America it’s amplified by the fact that we have so much more room to move around in. Our roads stretch from Montauk to San Francisco.
Americans love journeys–and it’s interesting to note that journeys are important in the Bible, too. A great journey of faith begins in Genesis 12, when God says to Abraham: “Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household and go the land I will show you.” And so Abraham began a lifelong journey with God. On one level, it was a journey to the Holy Land. But the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that Abraham’s journey had a deeper meaning: “He was looking forward to the city with foundations whose architect and builder was God” (Hebrews 11:10). Abraham’s journey of faith is ultimately a journey toward heaven.
And we are on a similar journey. Jesus Christ says to us, “Follow me”–and “Follow me” is really an invitation to a journey. We are on the road, journeying toward heaven. “I’m but a stranger here–heaven is my home,” we sing. This life, then, is a journey homeward. And it’s a journey that all Christians are taking. I cherish the story of a young man who visited an elderly Christian woman who was confined to her home. He expressed sympathy for her situation–“I’m sorry you’re confined, I’m sorry you can’t go anywhere.” And her response was: “I’m not confined. I am on a journey.” Then he realized that, even though she couldn’t go anywhere physically, she truly was “on the road” spiritually.
As we think about our journey, we also want to remember Christ’s journey. “For us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven...” Jesus hit the road. He left His home in heaven and He came down among us. And His road turned out to be bitter indeed–as He carried His cross down the Way of Sorrows, the road to Mt. Calvary. But He made that journey for you and me! His death and resurrection have opened heaven for us! He makes our journey possible. Without Him, life would be a journey into darkness and despair. But because of Jesus, life is a journey home!
In all the fictional journeys I mentioned above, no one travels alone. Dante has Virgil, Don Quixote has Sancho, Dorothy has the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion (and Toto too!). Journeys are perilous and uncertain, and we need other people by our side. And so in our journey of faith, we are not alone. We have our brothers and sisters in the church. We are walking the same road, we are heading for the same destination. One reason we gather for worship and for other church events is so that we can encourage one another, support one another, in the journey.
One of the great pleasures of traveling is the food. A stop for food on a journey is always an event, sometimes an adventure! As I write this, I am preparing to fly to Chicago, a journey that will, by nightfall, take me to a large platter of ribs. And that platter of ribs will give me the strength I need to carry out my automotive journey to Iowa. The food we get on the road gives us strength to continue the journey. One of my favorite Bible stories is about the disheartened Elijah going to Mt. Horeb to pray to God. (I Kings 19). Elijah collapses under a tree and goes to sleep. An angel awakens him and shows him some bread and water. The angel says, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” (I Kings 19:7). Then the Bible says, “He got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.” Elijah needed food for his journey. And so do we! That’s why God has given us the blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion. People on a journey need to eat. And God gives us miraculous food, incredible food–the bread of heaven, the bread of angels, the bread of Life! With this food continually strengthening us, we can continue our journey with God.
I don’t know how high gasoline will go this summer–but I suspect it won’t keep us off the road. We love journeys too much. And let us never forget the greater journey that we all are on. May God keep our steps on the path, as we joyfully move toward our home in heaven!
God loves you and so do I!