Pastor of Decatur United Methodist Church
Many of you already know this, but I want to share some good news with you. Hope and I have sold our home. Well, at least we have a contract on our home. We are still in the period of due diligence, where our buyers are getting a home inspections, an appraisal, and just making sure everything works out.
This is one of those neat stories where we personally know the buyers, and I just pray that they enjoy our home as much as we have. For every homeowner there is alway maintenance, but we also undertook some renovation projects and I am very proud of what we did. It’s very easy to get attached to home. This is the first home we bought together. We got our kids in this home. We celebrated Christmases and birthday in this home.
You know, our homes have a such a strong value. For most homeowners their home is their largest single investment. But the value of home is much deeper than money. We attach value to these wall and floors and furniture that far outweighs their actual monetary value. I think about the old MasterCard commercials for a house: water heater $800, new carpet $3,000, new refrigerator $1200, our home — Priceless.
There is a lot our nation has done to promote this value of the home. Our tax codes encourage things like homeownership by being able to deduct your mortgage interest. You can sometimes get rebates to make your home more energy efficient.
It’s not just home ownership. People in America, perhaps people in most places, value security and stability. The old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And over all, I think it’s safe to assume that most people rather like this maxim. Most people rather like the idea of being stable and secure. And, I am right there along with them. We accept stability as the proper course of life.
But the problem with stability, it that it just doesn’t seem to last. Chaos seems to poke its head into any of our best laid plans. We often think about a lack of stability being bad thing, at least an uncomfortable thing, but the other side is that God is often one who messes up somebody’s stability.
Throughout the Bible, we find that God enters the scene in ways that always seem to affect people’s stability. One of these scenes happens early in the Bible when God calls Abraham. At this time, Abraham is living in his homeland. He is thriving with his family, with his business. If he were in America in the 21st century, he would have arrived—owning a home, two cars, a comfortable job. But it is at this moment of security, at this moment of stability, that God asks Abraham to do something.
In Genesis 12:1-4 we read about this encounter:
12 The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
those who curse you I will curse;
all the families of the earth
will be blessed because of you.”[a]
4 Abram left just as the Lord told him, and Lot went with him. Now Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran.
If it was stability Abraham was seeking, this is not what God offered. If it was security that Abraham was seeking, this not what God offered. His whole life, for 75 years was made in this one place with his family. He loved his family and surely he loved this place, surely he loved his home. Surely he accepted this idea of security and stability as best thing in his life.
But instead of accepting this security, God asks Abraham to accept something different. God asks Abraham to accept the journey.
As with any journey there is going to be discomfort, there is going to trails, there is going to be uncertainty. I am one who likes the idea of taking a journey, but when it comes down to it all the uncertainty of the journey has a tendency to make me anxious. If I don’t know where I’m staying, I start to worry about it. If I don’t have the right seat on the airplane, I start to worry about how I’m going to make it through a long flight.
I think some of this anxiety is well founded in a trip I took to Latvia. It was 8 hours or so to get to Europe, and then when we landed in Amsterdam I started to feel bad. Then on the first when we finally arrived in Latvia, I got terribly sick—actually violently sick, but I’ll spare you the details. And when you are sick in a foreign place, you realize that they don’t have the medicine or gatorade that you used to. They have other things, of course, but you don’t know what they have.
So I can imagine the discomfort that Abraham would have been feeling when God asked him accept the journey. Accepting this journey meant that Abraham was also accepting hardship; it meant he was also accepting being uncomfortable; it meant it he accepting uncertainty. And none of this is easy for most people.
But, in accepting the journey and that goes with it, Abraham is promised to blessed immensely. If he had refused the journey, he could not have experienced all that God desired for him. For Abraham, accepting the journey is an act of faith that brought him and generations of people closer to God.
This model that Abraham gives us of accepting the journey is found throughout the Bible, and especially in the lives of earliest followers of Jesus. These were people that asked to leave behind their daily lives and accept a journey with Jesus. If know much of the story, you that the story means that accepting this journey also meant accept some pretty harsh things. It also meant accepting uncertainty and changing their whole outlook on the world.
One of these persons was a man named Matthew. He was working his government job of collecting taxes. And at this point, in Matt 9:9, Jesus “said to him, ‘follow me,’ and he got up and followed him.” Jesus asked him to accept the Journey, and Matthew followed.
To another, in Matthew 8:22, Jesus said, “Follow me, and let dead bury their own dead.”
And again in Matthew 10:38, Jesus said, “Those who don’t pick up their crosses and follow me aren’t worthy of mean.”
Clearly, accepting the journey was and is a vital part of the life of faith. For us, as Americans, I think this is very difficult proposition. I mean it’s easy for us to accept the values of security and stability that mark us as Americans. But the problem is, Abraham and Jesus and the Christians knew, accepting security and stability means that you must refuse the journey. To accept security of place or property means that we can’t ultimately accept a journey that Jesus is inviting us to.
For the earliest Christians, this virtue of accepting the journey deeply rooted in who they were, it became for them their identity. You see, the earliest Christians weren’t called Christian, instead we find that they were called people of the “Way.” That is, they were called people who accepted the journey. People who have accepted the uncertainty and insecurity of the journey.
We see this documented in Acts ch 9, when outsiders look that these early Christians they see them as people who wholly accepted the way of Jesus, the journey of Jesus.
This idea of accepting the journey and all that goes with it is so important for us today.
We are in the midst of this Lenten message series examining different practices that can bring us closer to God. Last week we discussed confession as one of these practices. This week our practice is accepting the journey.
To me, when I hear this practice of accepting the journey, it sounds rather easy on the surface. But when I pause to really think about what God was asking Abraham to do or what Jesus was asking his early followers and to do, I realize that it much harder than it at first appear. Because accepting the journey also means accepting the uncertainty.
Accepting the uncertainty isn’t easy for us. I told you that we sold our house, but there is still some uncertainty in this until we actually close and give them the keys and put our check in the bank. And this uncertainty isn’t easy.
But if accept the uncertainty as a fact of life, we be freed to live, to grow in our faith, to grow closer to God.
As you go throughout your week, I want to encourage you to accept the uncertainty of life. To name it, then just move on. This is what God been calling people of faith to do for generations and generations. In Christ we are people of the journey; In Christ we are people uncertainty.
My prayer for you is that you practice accepting who you are in Christ.
Decatur United Methodist Church
Our hope is that these messages will be relevant in your life and encourage you in faith.
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