Message preached on
July 15, 2018
Saturday morning, at the crack of dawn - earlier than most would have liked - our youth head to the airport to fly to Colorado for National Youth Conference. We pray this will be a valuable journey for each of you individually and for all of you together. No doubt you have heard a great deal about NYC from others. Parents and grandparents may have made a similar journey and shared it with you. Those from previous youth groups, like Meghan, could have spoken with you about it. ‘What has been passed along to you has probably included both positives and negatives – things you need to check out, as well as activities to avoid. That’s good but, as always, take these with a grain of salt. You will only get out of this experience what you put into it. If you go just to have a fun time, that’s all you’ll get. But if you embark on this trip as a spiritual journey, and give yourself to it, God will not disappoint.
This is true not only for those leaving on an airplane next weekend. It is true for all of us, myself included, for we are all embarked upon a journey. For some of us, it is a trip to Colorado which is only a part of a larger journey – hopefully a mountaintop experience along the way. Others of us are headed through fearful valleys ahead (I certainly can speak to this), but this is just a segment of a greater expedition.
Speaking of traveling, anyone ever go to AAA and get a “TripTik”? … Before navigational systems for your car, or google maps for smart phones, you could go to AAA (actually, you still can) and they would customize a map just for you, based on the places you plan to go. A TripTik was a nice, neat little booklet, organized in map segments, complete with a highlighted path of the best roads to travel, with construction or tolls noted. Of course, google maps and navigational systems have all this and more. However, a TripTik was drawn up by a real person especially for you.
You could say that, in this morning’s scripture, the apostle Paul has laid out, in a long, run-on sentence, a spiritual TripTik. God, “who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing … chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.” There is the starting point of our TripTik. Not the moment we first responded to the invitation from Jesus to follow. Not the day we physically entered this world, nor the time our parents first began dreaming us into existence. No, this TripTik begins before the beginning of all things. Imagine that!
We were chosen for this journey long before we even thought of the possibility of stepping out on it. In this spiritual TripTik, Paul then says “God destined us.” Now, I know some folks could argue for hours over what this “pre” (as in before the beginning) “destination” means, focusing more on the “pre” part of that word and how this might only mean certain “chosen” people, and wondering how we figure out if we are one of the “chosen.” Believe me, volumes have been written about that. Me? I’d rather focus on the latter part of that word. Since I do like to travel, having a “destination” is important. Without a destination, why head into AAA for a TripTik?
Paul says that we were destined to be adopted. Now, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that destination on a map, but there it is: Destined to be adopted as God’s children through Jesus Christ. Where is that place on the spiritual map of our life, when we were adopted – all of us? Is it the moment we first said “Yes” to God? Was it the day we were baptized? Or did it happen before we were even aware of how much we were loved by this Someone who chose us as his own? Not only did God choose us, Paul says that God took pleasure in making this TripTik for us. Have you figured out yet that when I say TripTik here, I’m thinking of God’s “will,” as well as God’s “plan” – what God intends for us.
Maybe a map with a highlighted path is not the best way of envisioning this. After all, it is only human nature to not follow directions. You never know what sights you might see off the beaten path. The best road may not be the most direct way. Think of the children of Israel after they left Egypt. I could have mapped a quicker route than the one they wandered, which took them 40 years to travel. But the journey itself was important. Much growth happened along the way… Think of the disciples of Jesus. It says there were 12 of them, just like there were 12 tribes of Israel. It took 3 years for Jesus and his followers to get from Galilee to Jerusalem. Google maps could have gotten them there much quicker, even with many “recalculating.” However, those disciples learned a great deal from their teacher every step of the way. The journey itself was important. It still is.
As God’s children, we are embarked on the greatest adventure ever. Ponder that - you who travel to Colorado next week. These upcoming six days will pass all-too-quickly. Don’t rush from start to finish. Meander a bit. Make sure you take time to ponder what you hear, what you see, what you feel, what you experience. This is not just a plane trip, a bus ride, and plenty of walking. It is, for you, a spiritual journey. That is my hope, our hope - why we have been helping you get there. I know this is not school where you need to take notes for a test. However, writing down some of what you hear, some of your conversations and experiences, as well as your own thoughts along the way, the things God’s Spirit is fermenting within you – this is helpful for growing as disciples of Jesus. Yes, we hope it is a mountaintop experience for you. Try to see it, however, as part of your larger journey of faith which continues on after these six days are past.
And those of us who remain here, we are also embarked on the greatest adventure ever. Even as some of us journey through difficult terrain. What is God’s Spirit fermenting within as we follow our Shepherd through the valley of the shadow? What are we needing to remember along the way? As I encourage our youth to write down what they hear as well as their own reflections this coming week, I need to practice what I preach… What, for instance, did I have to learn on Friday from a CT scan of my chest making sure cancer has not spread? …
Words to be cherished and remembered… From the Devotional book, “Jesus Calling,” someone in that “strong support system,” a brother-in-Christ, texted me that same day these words as from the Lord:
These things are now written in my spiritual TripTik for this week, along with what another brother-in-Christ had to say as he drove me to and from the CT scan. His words were about retirement, reminding me – in an indirect sort of way – that I have a future, in spite of that fearful word, cancer. There is more to this journey. In these ways and others God has been speaking to me the past few days, leading me onward… What is the Holy Spirit fermenting in you along the way of your own spiritual journey? Make sure you write it down and remember it.
Speaking of remembering, that’s what we do when we come to the Lord’s table. Along his journey, which is also our journey by faith, we remember that
Along the way of our journey, we are not alone. We come to his table together.