Sometimes on Tuesday mornings when I download the sermon recording from my little voice recorder and listen to the beginning and ending to make sure it’s ready to post on our church website, I think about all the things I could have said that I didn’t say. Some sermons could easily be twice as long. And some sermons, despite all the hours of thought and study and writing, are still not quite what I would have them be. And as I listen to the one from last Sunday about Moses receiving his call at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-15) and Jesus telling his disciples to take up their crosses and follow him (Matthew 16:21-28), I find myself thinking about one word I never said but which sums up what I was trying to say—journey. I answered the question posed in the title, “What is our call?’ with a statement: To passionately give our all to follow Jesus in every part of our lives. But it could have been just a word. Journey.
I mentioned that God promised Moses in Exodus 3:12 that God would be with Moses every step of the way. This morning I’m remembering the conversation they had later on, in Exodus 33:1-17, when God has said it’s time to get moving but I won’t be going with you anymore because if I do I might destroy you. And Moses pleads for God to go with them, and God relents and promises to continue to be present with them. They were on a journey, and the journey would be pointless without God.
Remembering that episode makes it all the more clear why we needed Jesus to put an end to that dilemma once and for all. God kept having to restrain himself from destroying Israel because they couldn’t help being who they were—“stiff-necked” people (Ex. 33:3), or as one translation puts it, “Impossible to deal with.” And we too are stiff-necked and difficult, but because of Jesus we are ok to God. Which is a good thing because we’re looking forward to spending eternity with God, and that would be the opposite of heaven if God was having to try to stop himself from destroying us every moment. Spending eternity faced with the wrath of God would be . . . hell.
We’re not there yet, though, and in the meantime we’re on a journey through life, following Jesus, hopefully, and if we were to look back over that journey from the end, what would we notice?
Jesus says in the end of Sunday’s reading from Matthew that he will come again and judge us according to our deeds. That’s a challenging statement. There’s an endless supply of God’s grace and forgiveness, and we can’t earn that by our deeds, but I wonder what Jesus might ask us in that day when we finally meet him face to face?
Will he be more concerned with our actions, our words, our thoughts, or all of them together?
What would we want to see looking back over our lives?
· Did we accept Jesus’ offering to us of grace and forgiveness?
· Did we share that grace and forgiveness with others through our words and actions?
· Did we spend time talking to God?
· Did we seek to grow in our understanding of his will through reading his word and studying it with other disciples?
· Did we put honoring and enjoying and loving God above all else?
In other words, how did we spend the journey? And if God’s presence had left us along the way, would we have noticed? And would we, like Moses, have stopped and pleaded with God to be present with us again?
God has already promised to never leave us, and given us the Holy Spirit to fulfill that promise, but there are still times when it feels like he has left us alone. Sometimes it takes me a few days to notice that I’m feeling alone, and that my morning times of talking to God have been just going through the motions. And so sometimes I do plead with God. Where are you? What have I done that’s gotten in the way? What did God say that I refused to listen to?
And today I know that there was a word being said that I didn’t pay attention to . . . journey. Or maybe that word wasn’t for that day quite yet, but it is for today. May God go with me into today . . . and may he go with you, too.