About Me

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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

You CAN Get There From Here

Date: 04/24/2005
Feast: 5th s o Est
Church: LHPC
Bible text: John 14:1-14
Theme: I am the way

Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it was just a bad week for traffic in the greater Knox County area. I spent a lot of time in the car last week. And I spent a lot of time frustrated. OK, “frustrated” is a little weak. I spent a lot of time grumpy. No, “grumpy” is still not strong enough. I spent a lot of time teetering on the razor’s edge of psychopathic road rage. Yeah, that’s about accurate.
Is it just me? Or are any of you frantically looking for alternate routes to… everywhere? Even if the detour is longer, mileage-wise, so what? If you get there without raising your blood pressure more than 30 points… if you arrive without mentally breaking 2 or 7 commandments, isn’t it worth it? So what if you drive to Farragut by way of Fontana? It’s a pretty drive. It keeps you off I-40 AND Kingston Pike. And after 350 hairpin turns (and car-sickness), you really do forget your worries.
In a city (and perhaps a world?) where the words “drive” and “crazy” go together like “honk” and “ammunition,” where do we go to find peace? And wherever it is we might go, do we really want to go there, knowing that on the way it’s going to take more time and money and patience than we might have in our tanks?
Jesus walked everywhere. Which may be one reason he was so peaceful. Jesus was the Prince of Peace. Jesus came from a place of peace, and was on his way to a place of peace, and along the way he tried to steer some very frustrated disciples toward the peace he was preparing.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me…,” he told them. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. Thou knowest TDOT’s just beginning the highways. Only the Father knows how long it’ll take them to finish. Our maps aren’t worth the scrolls they’re scribbled on. How can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”
People who are frustrated with the road they’re on… people who can’t figure out an alternate route… people who know – know – peace is just over the next hill, but can never quite find a way to get to it – these are the people Jesus is talking to. Whether you drive, whether you walk, whether you ride a camel, “road rage” is not simply a 21st Century American phenomenon. People have always driven themselves crazy searching for that one way from here to there, from aggravation to peace.
Philip told Jesus to show them, and then they’d be satisfied. And Jesus said, “I am the way. I am the way, the truth, and the life. I AM the roadmap. I AM the road. And one way or another, I’m going to take you with me.” One way or another, Jesus is going to take US with him to his place of peace.
You remember the old joke? Why did the Israelites wander in the wilderness for 40 years? Because Moses would never stop to ask directions. Another version goes, “because he would never ask his wife for directions.” (We might comment on that, but it would take us down a dead end of no return.) Didn’t like to ask directions. Remember that about the people who wrote the Old Testament. Because a lot of what they wrote is about getting from here to there. Psalm 31, for example, is a real-world poem about the same spiritual problem the disciples faced in the New Testament.
In you, O Lord, I seek refuge;
do not let me ever be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me.
One translation says it, “I run to you, God, for dear life.” The psalmist is looking for a place of peace, a place to get away. The King James says it differently, but equally well: “In Thee, O Lord, do I put my trust.” The old Hebrew word for, “get me outta here before I kill somebody,” or, “get me outta here before somebody kills me,” is also the word that means, “I put my trust in you.” So what the psalm says is, “Help me escape... to find my peace, my safety, my hope, in you.”
Do you ever want to just go crawl in a cave someplace? So did the writer of Psalm 31. Do you ever get so stuck in traffic that you want to just open up the car door and walk away? Can’t say the writer of Psalm 31 wanted to do that, but s/he’d understand. Want to toss the cell phone off a bridge? Want to take a baseball bat to your email terminal? Ever physically morph into Godzilla in front of the children who look at their supper plates and say, “Yuk, what’s that?” Yeah. You get it. You’re a Hebrew, wandering in the wilderness, trying to find a way. You’re trying to find a way to your place of peace, trust, safety, and hope.
Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily.
Before I hurt somebody,
Or they hurt me.
Road rage. Road weary. We may have newer ways of getting down the road, faster ways, with softer seats and air conditioning. But road disorders are nothing new. Dis-order on the road of life is nothing new. What we’re really talking about here is the spiritual disorder that comes with knowing there’s peace ahead – peace is almost within our grasp – it could be – we just don’t know the way to get there. They wrote psalms about it. Disciples asked Jesus about it. People still pull their hair out over it. Maybe it’s not just me.
Jesus IS the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus is the rock of the safe, quiet cave. Jesus is the road AND the roadmap out of frustration and fear. And yet, he starts what he says to his disciples with the directions they just couldn’t ask for. He puts his arm on their shoulder (figuratively, if not literally), and reassures them: ”Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me….” In other words, ”Guys – trust me on this one. I am your safe place. I am your protection. I am the cave you crawl into when the world drives you crazy and your enemies and persecutors are coming to snatch your life away. Let me be that place, let me be that one, let me be that peace.”
Oh, that sounds so good. But it’s so hard. Even those of us who don’t like reading directions get this idea in our head that if we can check off steps A through Z in some kind of reasonable order, we’ll hit whatever goal it is we’re aiming at. In other words, peace – like everything else – depends on trusting ourselves. ”If you want a job done right...” Who has to do it? Yeah.
But the God of Easter says, ”Trust ME.” The peace of Christ that passes all understanding is always just over the next hill, and (doggone it) there’s always another hill to climb – at least that’s how it feels sometimes. Jesus says, ”Stop it. Stop.You just can’t get there from here. At least not the way you drive – the way you drive yourself; the way you drive the people around you. You’ll drive yourself crazy.”
Wherever the peace of Christ is, he promises us he’s going to come back and take us there. We get to the peace of Christ by getting nowhere, at least on our own. We find the peace of Christ by giving up, by confessing the words of the psalm...
My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your steadfast love.
The way. The way, the truth, and the life will take us where we can’t go. But we can’t move off ”Go” until we give up the rages, and trust in him.