The Kingdom Road
Sunday, 26 June 2016
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51)
There’s a scene in one of the episodes of The Simpsons where the family are in the car going somewhere. The kids - Bart and Lisa - are in the back seat and they are sitting there saying “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” Christopher was like that when he was little and we were driving down to France or wherever. Kids are like that - focussed on the destination; on getting there. Most often I’d be thinking back to home and wondering if I’d left the iron on or whether I was absolutely sure I’d packed the passports.
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem. From here on in his focus will be the road ahead - a road that will lead to his fulfilling his purpose on Earth. This is a road he has been walking all the days of his life. As he has walked that road he has brought healing and wholeness to people. He has taught them what the love of God is all about As he has walked he road he has been astonished by the faith of the outsider and the reach of his mission has extended from the Jews to the whole world. The road now, though, will take him to Jerusalem and then, ultimately, it will lead him home to his Kingdom. This is the Kingdom Road.
As he’s going there are folk who say they’ll follow him, but who have other concerns. His replies to them may seem a little harsh - uncaring even; but this is a man who knows he he is walking to his death. Perhaps he’s a little tense. Perhaps, though, he realises these are his last opportunities to tell people how urgent and important it is that they make the choice to follow him - to walk the road with him, whatever the cost.
In a sense we are all walking a road. We are all on a journey that has led from the moment of our birth to the moment when we will leave this world behind and our days here are done. when we take our last step along that road, what kind of journey will we have made. Will we have lived a life that we can be proud of? Will it have been a life informed by the fruits of the Spirit that Paul talks about in his letter; a life characterised by life, peace, generosity. Or will it have been a life informed by hatred, jealousy and greed? Will we have seized the offer Christ makes us to follow him on his road - a road that ever climbs - or will we stay stuck; held by the temptations the world throws at us.
“No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God”, says Jesus. Sounds tough. But Jesus knows that there are so many things that can hold us back on the journey we are supposed to make - a journey in which every day we are meant to try to be a little more caring and loving than we were yesterday; in which, every day, we are meant to be a little more generous and just than we were yesterday. A journey in which our lives, each day, yield the fruits of the Spirit. Every day we are meant to set our faces to Jerusalem and walk the Kingdom Road.
There are so many things, though, that can hold us back on that journey. Money can get in the way. We have become a society where our purpose in life is portrayed as being the getting and spending of wealth - on the acquisition of ever more property and possessions. And it’s easy to get caught up in that. It’s easy to think that economics is a value-free zone; to walk into shops and not question too closely why those garments or products are suspiciously cheap. If the folk making them are exploited in their poverty, what’s that to us. That’s market forces - nothing we can do about that. It’s easy to turn our face from Jerusalem and be distracted by the worst ways of the world.
If we’re in work then there are temptations of ambition and fear of upsetting the boss if we stand up to things that are wrong in the way things are being done. If we’re out of work then there are temptations to numb the sense of uselessness and of failure in any one of the drugs - chemical and technological - that the world can provide. In every aspect of life there are things that can hold us back from being all that we are meant to be - from taking our next steps along the Kingdom Road.
Yet we are called to follow Christ; to set our face toward Jerusalem and make that journey. It’s important that we do - not just for ourselves, but for those around us and for those who will come after us. We are not islands. Our lives touch other lives. The way we choose to live - the decisions we make, the things we say and do - reflect the things that are important in our lives. They reflect what we believe to be our purpose in life. Our purpose here on Earth is to play our part in God’s bringing in of his Kingdom here on Earth - and I fear our society has wandered away from any such vision.
We’ve just been through a referendum campaign. I don’t know about you but I found it deeply depressing - week after week of nothing but money and fear. No sense of vision - no sense that either side was about making a world where every human being is valued loved and cared for. No sense that either side was about making sure that everyone got enough to eat or a roof over their heads. No sense that either side was looking upward and imagining a better way a way based on love and compassion; on justice and generosity. Now, perhaps, there will be another independence referendum. It’s not my job, here in this place, to take sides on that, but I will say this.
Whatever we call this patch of land we live on; whatever we call ourselves a people - Scottish, British, European, whatever - we are all part of this society whatever it calls itself. We each have a place, and in that place we can make a difference. In that place Each of us can be a signpost to those around us showing the way God wants his children to go. In that place we can be a guide to others. In taking each step along the Kingdom Road we are meant to encourage others to walk in the same way. In trying, each day, to be a little more caring and loving we can encourage those around us to do likewise. In trying, each day, to put the needs of others before our own we can show others that there is a better way to be than a life stifled by selfishness. By trying harder, each day, to speak up for those the world casts aside and to help them we can show them that the real power in this world is love. By following in the way of Jesus, by turning our face to Jerusalem, then we can encourage others - give them a big word like ‘society’ if you like - along the Kingdom Road.
I don’t know how much difference any of us make in the great scheme of things. Only God knows that. What I think, though, is this. One day I will take my last step on the road. I’d like to think I’ll have lived a good life - a life in which I have climbed and grown; learned to find good in others and where they have found kindness and love in me. That I’ll have turned my face to Jerusalem and followed Christ along the Kingdom Road.
Lord, lead us ever onward and upward. May those we meet find your love in the way we deal with them and so may we follow in your way
Preached at Lockerbie Dryfesdale parish Church