Packing for the journey 1/25/01 (St. John's, Waterbury)
The hardest part of any journey is NOT “the beginning” or “the middle” or “the end.”
The hardest part of any journey is BEFORE “the beginning”. Somebody has to pack the bags….
We are at that awkward “Before the beginning” part of the long journey of Lent. This Sunday is the Last Sunday After the Epiphany. On Shrove Tuesday we’ll have a farewell dinner and on Ash Wednesday we’ll set off on our journey. Today is the hardest part. Today we have to pack the bags….
The Gospel reading for this last Sunday before Lent is always the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration. The Transfiguration event takes place on a mountain top, far above the concerns and needs in the valley below. Jesus is joined miraculously by Moses and Elijah who represent “the Law and the Prophets”—the gathering of the core of Judaism.
And what are they talking about—Moses and Elijah and Jesus? Luke tells us they “were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” Jesus is on the mountain-top “before the beginning” of his journey to Jerusalem and the Cross.
Moses and Elijah are helping Jesus pack his bags….
The disciples are not ready to go to Jerusalem. They are full on anxiety about what lies ahead. Jesus has been hinting that betrayal and suffering await him in Jerusalem. The disciples don’t want to go.
MASTER, Peter says to Jesus, IT IS GOOD FOR US TO BE HERE. LET US MAKE THREE DWELLINGS—ONE FOR YOU, ONE FOR MOSES AND ONE FOR ELIJAH….
Peter didn’t understand. A cloud overshadows the disciples, some of the fog that occasions mountain-tops, and they are terrified. Their fear was well-founded. Before the journey’s end they would face many dangers. No wonder they wanted to stay put on the mountain.
But Jesus is ready. His bags are packed and he’s ready to go.
Today we are baptizing three children. Jacob, Austin and Tiffany are setting out on the journey of life. And before they depart, we will help them pack their bags. Through water and oil we will proclaim they are loved by God and “marked as Christ’s own forever.”
That will go with them through the years and decades ahead. Whatever dragons they must pass, whatever dangers they may encounter, whatever fears may grip them…they will not travel alone. God goes with them.
Even when they feel they are by themselves, God goes with them.
Even when those who love them cannot protect them, God goes with them.
Even when they experience life as a desert, filled with wild beasts, God goes with them.
Today we will pack their bags full of the love of God and the grace of Christ. They’re almost ready to go.
As Jacob and Austin and Tiffany depart, so must we. We will gather around the Table on the Mountain Top and take be refreshed by the Life of God. But we cannot stay here. The world waits for us outside those doors. It is a sometimes frightening, confusing, lonely world. But it is the world God loves, and we do not journey alone.
The Wilderness of Lent awaits our footfalls. We must pack our bags with Love and face the wild beasts there. It is almost time. Soon we must depart.
But before then, some bread and some wine to remind us we are never alone…some water and some oil to remind us we are “marked as Christ’s own forever.”
This is the “getting ready time”. This is the time before the Beginning. This is the “bag packing” time. Then we’ll be ready for where the road may lead us and what the journey will hold.
When it’s time to go, we’ll be ready….Amen.