The Minister Writes – February 2016

The road is long…

“Are we nearly there yet?”
It’s the plaintive cry of those who have suffered interminable car journeys; those who have grown tired of the endless miles of pub cricket, “I spy” and Ken Bruce. It’s the desperate question of one who is tired of travelling and who is starting to think that, on balance, no destination is worth the time taken in getting there.

“Are we nearly there yet?”
Behind this question lies impatience; there’s got to be an end to this soon. There’s also hope; there’s something better to come when we reach journey’s end. We certainly don’t want to endure the boredom of motorway driving if the reward when we park up is a disappointing trip to yet another drizzly seaside, replete with closed pier and sold out ice cream vans. Our question is borne of anticipation of a bright future, as much of as a grim present. We’ll endure a bit more suffering in order to claim our reward (and ice cream) in the very near future.

“Are we nearly there yet?”
Minister_Writes_Entry_JersusalemI wonder if the disciples ever asked Jesus the same question whilst on their way to Jerusalem and the anticipated over-throw of the invading Roman army. The journey was a roundabout route, taking in villages, communities and responding to those in need. Not for Jesus the “crow’s flight” of direct travel; his ministry took him from his home community around the Sea of Galilee northwards into Phoenicia (Mark 7), eastwards into the Decapolis (Mark 7, 8 & 9), before heading south through Samaria (Luke 9, John 4), across the Jordan into Perea (John 11). Despite this convoluted route, the destination is never in doubt as we are told at an early stage that “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51), with his mildly baffled, yet enthusiastic entourage in tow.

“Are we nearly there yet?”
The anticipation of a fight; the momentum of an increasing army of the restored, the forgiven, the healed and the whole; all ready to put one of David’s descendents back on the throne in Jerusalem. This is what the disciples were looking forward to as they traipsed their way around the country; the impatient question may have been oft repeated, albeit in provincial Aramaic. Forget the talk of sacrifice, death and resurrection; all too theological and metaphorical for these plain thinking working class souls. Pragmatic action, that’s what awaits these travellers, or so they think.

“Are we nearly there yet?”
Minister_Writes_GethsemaneIs this a question that Jesus asked in the garden of Gethsemane, his question raised to heaven as blood and sweat dropped to the earth below? As he surrendered his tortured mind to the will of the Father, his human frailty in conflict with his divine compassion and the personal cost of the journey weighed against the promised rewards at the destination. This is the chance to put into practice the “greater love” (John 15:13) of sacrifice, not just for friends, but also for those who will hammer in the nails, brandish the whip and hurl insults.

“Are we nearly there yet?”
For those of us who live on this side of the first Easter, we know that Jesus’ death was not the end of his journey. But we ask the same question about our own life journey. For some of us, looking back maps out a longer road than the unknown road ahead. For others, the journey is just beginning. For yet others, the journey may come to an abrupt end; such is the nature of uncertainty. There may be “many a winding turn” as the song goes, and pot-holes, detours and dead ends may scar the path.

“Are we nearly there yet?”
This could seem like a fatalistic question and yet this is not the case. For a start, at one level, the end of our life journey is just the start of another, greater journey beyond death. This is the great hope of Easter; death is not what it’s cracked up to be and there is a big party waiting for late-comers.

“Are we nearly there yet?”
Minister_WritesJesus_CrucifiedBut there’s another reason that we can ask the question with confidence. It’s a question that has already been answered in the affirmative. Jesus did all the hard yards; his journey to the cross and beyond reaches out and embraces us. It means that as soon as we recognise that Jesus’ Palestinian Road Trip invites all of us to reap the rewards that he freely offers, we arrive at our destination. It may take time to realise that Jesus has patiently been waiting just outside the driver’s door, with scarred arms open wide and a welcoming smile on his face. “Welcome home,” he says.“You have reached your destination.”
Blessings
Paul Graham

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