Sunday, October 14, 2018

Sermon for Sunday, October 14, 2018 Mark 10:17-31 “Journey”

Journeys are usually fraught with questions at the front end. Does the itinerary work? Can I get a plane fare that won’t require a second mortgage? Will the dog-sitter be able to manage my recalcitrant beagle? Will the hotel be to my liking? Will I be able to find food that doesn’t give me indigestion? Will I be stuck sitting next to someone on the tour bus who chatters incessantly?

I’m sure you can fill in the blanks with other questions that have run through your mind at the onset of a journey.

Jesus is once again journeying through the countryside in his ministry in today’s Gospel, and he is dealing with questions, but they aren’t his own internal questions, such as the ones I mentioned a moment ago. No, instead, as a rabbi/teacher, he’s responding to a question from a fellow-traveler:  “what do I do to get eternal life?” We’d say it a little differently: “how do I get to heaven?” And another way of looking at it is looking at THE NATURE of the journey…

I’ve got an endpoint, a goal. What’s my road map?

Now some of us here are old enough to be able to read actual paper maps. Some of us remember ordering a TripTik map from AAA – a sequence map of do this, turn here, this is a toll road, now get off here, and so forth.

Its current day digital counterpart is a GPS system. I relied on a GPS app, Waze, to get me here this morning. Worked spendidly, and I needed it, given that I had only had a single cup of coffee when I left the house.

These are great tools to get us to a goal.

But when Jesus responds to the fellow who asks the question, this rich young man, he suggests a different kind of map.

The young man is asking for a TripTik or a GPS system, and Jesus says, “it’s as much about the nature of the journey as it is about the destination. You’re focused the endpoint. Focus instead on how you do the journey.”

It’s sort of like a Michelin Guide. Anyone here ever use those red Michelin books? 

Yes, they’ve got maps, the old-fashioned kind that would make me dream about going to far-off places when I was a child. But they’ve got a whole bunch more, like special attractions. And like listings of restaurants along the way. Because the French certainly understand that a vital part of any journey is eating along the way. It’s truly a shift from destination to the way of the journey.

I love their rating system for restaurants. They give stars. 

Zero stars? Like an Applebees? Meh…
·        1 Michelin star: "A very good restaurant in its category" (Une très bonne table dans sa catégorie)
·        2 Michelin stars: "Excellent cooking, worth a detour" (Table excellente, mérite un détour)
·        3 Michelin stars: "Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey" (Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage)

The only three-star Michelin restaurant I know near here is the Inn at Little Washington. My husband and I went there for dinner for a major anniversary before I was a priest. It was phenomenal. Phenomenally expensive, too, but a lifetime memory. I’m glad I have that memory, because I surely couldn’t afford it these days. But it was without a doubt worth a special journey, vaut le voyage!

I don’t know about your GPS, but Waze NEVER suggests a restaurant that’s vaut le voyage! I can ask it where’s a restaurant nearby, but usually the restaurants are the fast-food kind, not anything that’s worth a detour, much less a special journey.

But that Michelin Guide, it says the journey is as important as the destination. Very French, but also, in a way, very Jesus.

Because let’s look at what Jesus says in response to the rich young man’s question: “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

In other words, don’t just follow the TripTik or your GPS, go out of your way to live INTO this journey, don’t just take a detour and think that’s enough, take a SPECIAL trip that’s probably way out of your comfort zone to get to the most precious thing: eternal life.

Love each other. Love the lovable. Love the unlovable. Democrats, love Republicans. Republicans, love Democrats. Facebookers, don’t unfriend the people who post things you disagree with – love them and enter into civil and honorable dialogue with them. Give until it hurts, even to those you think don’t deserve your gift. Remember, if we go all “Judgy McJudgerson” on others, imagine what God could do in judging us.

Now our rich young man really has a problem with Jesus’ Michelin Guide to eternal life, because he has many things, and the idea of giving them all away for the benefit of the poor? Not so attractive.

And that creates yet another question about the journey, from those who have listened to this whole exchange and wonder if anyone, particularly anyone with STUFF, can get to heaven. And here’s the one sentence that turns the whole thing on its head: Jesus says, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

For God all things are possible.

I expect that for some of us here, during this time of transition, there were many moments of worry. Many moments of “what will be possible?”

You worried about what would await you after your beloved Rev. DR retired.

God provided Rev. JP, a wise and warm temporary shepherd.

You worried about what sorts of candidates your Search Committee would receive.

God provided a good and healthy pool of candidates for their prayerful consideration.

You worried if the final recommended candidate would meet the scrutiny of the Vestry.
God assured that the candidate did, with flying colors, because the Search Committee did their work listening for God’s voice, God’s will.

And now you are ready to welcome your new rector, the Rev. VH. I know her well. She is intelligent, deeply spiritually grounded, energetic, loving. She is delighted by this call and looks forward to being with you very soon. This leg of your journey is nearly concluded.

But our life journey continues. As you welcome V, remember that we are not done with the journey. We are all on a much bigger journey, a journey toward Heaven – and to be clear, I’m not saying we’re all on the verge of death – but all of our lives are the journey that Jesus describes in his Michelin Guide answer. You get to eternal life by living this life in a very particular way. Care for others as much as you care for yourself, seek God’s will over your own, worry more about how you live your life now than worrying about checking off boxes, and the promise of heaven will come to you. Try, and even if you do not succeed in every moment, remember that all things are possible for God. You saw that in this journey of transition to your new rector. Trust that it is equally true in the journey of heavenly promise.

God bless this parish and all who are a part of it and all who will become a part of it in the days and years to come. God bless you in all your possibilities!