Road Trip!!!! Hearing those words brings back a slew of positive and unforgettable memories from our childhood, adolescents and early adulthood. The road trip is not just a vacation, its an epic adventure that marks our stages of life. As children we set out on road trips with the family to great America destinations like the Grand Canyon and the Pacific Coast along with Mount Rushmore and the Great Lakes! As teens we test the waters with our friends who can drive and have their own cars as we venture out on mini road trips to places like "up north" (for us Michiganders) and Cedar Pointe (Also a midwestern reference). And then finally as young adults, just out of high school or maybe it's our freshman year of college, we embark on our first "real" road trip thats hundreds of miles and several days long. And we journey with our peers, not our family. Maybe it's a road trip oversees and you and a friend or cousin or sibling journey throughout continental Europe via backpack, train and hitch hiking. Whatever, wherever the road trip is a significant coming of age moment for just about all Americans.
I have a few "road trips" that I remember well from childhood. When I was a kid my family and I would drive west to California from Michigan to see my Grandparents, Aunt, Uncle and two cousins who lived in Pasadena. Those were great trips. I remember driving through the painted desert of Arizona being mesmerized by it's beauty and I remember the great big tunnels we drove through as we passed through the Rockies in Colorado. Those trips were fun, they were formative and informative, but they're not what we think of when we say....ROAD TRIP!!!! My first "real" road trip happened when I was a freshman in College. I went to an Assemblies of God University, so this isn't a story about drinking, smoking pot and chasing girls, it could be (A/G bible college students are not immune), but it's not. We had heard of this preacher in Houston who was calling himself a 'prophet" and he claimed he could tell God's future for us. We were intrigued so we decided to go, plus both my friends where from the Houston area and it gave them a reason to go home. We took my car, since it was the only reliable vehicle we had available to us. Ok, my two friends probably weighted close to 300lbs each, one of them...maybe more. It was 400miles to Houston and it was HOT!!! My car was lower in the back, where they sat, than in the front. After we got back, the engine blew up a week later. One of the most memorable and terrible things that happened was that my friend Wes tricked me into drinking half a bottle of Phillips Milk of Magnesium...they thought that was funny, but actually...the joke was on them ;). It was a fun trip filled with all the stuff you'd expect on a road trip. My Next crazy road trip was with my buddy Jared. We decided to go to Florida for Spring break. This wasn't a typical road trip because we flew to Florida, but had no car when we got there. We were going to stay with a friend, who never showed up at the airport to get us so we took this train down to Boca were they lived. It took for ever!! This guy kept taking his shoes off and the smell was so bad it could gag a maggot! There is so much that happened on that trip it would take hours to tell the stories. Jared got a sever sun burn and we filled super soakers with aloe juice and shot at his back, we hitched a ride with a lady and Jeremy, our friend we were meeting down there, farted in her car and she kicked us out on the side of the road...we had to walk 7.5 miles to were we were staying. It was a long week and a very formative experience.
Every year thousands of people get injured and even killed on the roads. The roads aren't the safest place to be. Especially in the first century. During Jesus' time it was not uncommon for people to lose their lives traveling to other cities because of thieves, bandits and robbers. Today we lose our lives because of accidents, either irresponsible drivers or uncontrollable circumstances. This week a man in Seattle who was dribbling a soccer ball all the way from Seattle to Ecuador, to raise money for hunger programs, was hit by a truck and killed only 10miles away from where he started. Also this week a young man in Indiana was traveling with his parents on a summer vacation road trip. He was hanging his head out of the window when a semi-truck passed by to close and decapitated the boy. The roads are still dangerous and we still need to be carful out there.
Our passage this week has to do with a road trip Jesus was about to undertake. He was ready to head to Jerusalem and he and the disciples were on the road. Often Galilean Jews would circumvent the region of Samaria. The Samaritans did not like the Jews because the Jews were hostile and judgmental towards them. The Samaritans did not believe that you had to go to Jerusalem to worship YHWH, they had their own Shrine in Gilgal. The Samaritans also had different expectation of the Messiah than the Jews. They were believed to not be truly Jewish, they were not born of a Jewess and therefore where not a full Jew. So the Jews bullied them a little, made them feel unworthy and told them they were as unclean as gentiles. So there was some bad blood between these two people, which were for the most part the same. Some of the "blood" was so "bad" that their conflicts over rituals and worship practices often became violent. Jesus liked a challenge so he sent one of his disciples a head to inform the Samaritans that he was coming, but they said. "no, we're not interested in your Jewish Rabbi." and they rejected Jesus. This is were we get the chance to see the animosity between the Jews of Galilee and the Samaritans. After hearing of this rejection and the rejection of their beloved Rabbi, James and John wanted to destroy the Samaritans with Fire!!! "Burn em' all Lord!!"Send em' to meet their maker!!!" Call down judgment from heaven in the form of fire and kill them all, thats what they wanted Jesus to do. I don't read this anywhere in the gospels other than here with the people of Samaria...it must have been one heck of a feud and so you can imagine why passing through Samaria was avoided at all cost. Jesus quickly rebukes the "sons of thunder" and informs them that, we're not about fire and brimstone, but instead about love and compassion. After that event Jesus and the 12 continue down the road and encounter three more people. All three are interested following Jesus, two of them are directly invited...none of them join. The first one offered to follow Jesus. "Wherever you go Lord, I'll follow" Jesus says to him, "I have no where to Go...the birds have nest, foxes have holes, but I have no where to go." Jesus is saying if you follow me, it's not to a place, but away of living. The next guy Jesus invites, but he is reluctant at first saying, "Ok....but." But let me go bury my father who just died. Jesus says ,"then go bury your dead, you have no place with me." This isn't Jesus being non-compassionate, but dispelling any excuse. Jesus says, "look, if you are going to follow me than do it, your father is dead, let the dead be dead and you embrace eternal life. No more excuse." The final person Jesus encounters is another man who Jesus invites to follow and this man says, "ok I'll come, but let me go home, kiss the wifey and kids and make sure things are set first." Again Jesus says, "enough excuses, follow or don't, but don't use others as an excuse to not."
Each person had a reason why they could not come with Jesus at that moment. We often come up with reason why we can't do what God has called us to, especially at a moments notice. We got to make sure things are all set first and organized. This passage provides for us four rules for our missional road trip. Missional meaning we are on a mission to save souls and to redeem lives for Jesus.
1.) Travel lite. Don't take to much baggage. With you. When the disciples began there journey and Jesus told them, "we're going to the Samaritans." they had all this baggage that went with them and negatively informed their perception of the mission. They hated Samaritans and the moment one of them said something the 12 did not like, it was "off with your heads!!" We often take baggage along with us on our Christian journey and it gets in the way of what God wants to do in and through us. Just like on an actual road trip, if you take to much, there's not enough space for everyone. Leave your baggage at home.
2.) Don't worry about where you'll stay. When we travel we get tired and when we get tired we want to stop and sleep, either in our car or at a motel. Sometimes we get so preoccupied with that days destination, when we are going to stop for the night, that we forget to enough the ride. The man who said, "I'll follow you...where ever you go." what thinking about the destination and not the journey. We need to focus on the journey we're on, not the destination.
3.) Don't try to tie up all the lose ends before you go. Often when we travel we get very anxious the night before. My mom use to stay up really late the night before our family road trips and try to get everything done, packed and perfect before we left. Then the day we left she would be tired, moody and irritable and make everyone else experience misserable. The man who wanted to bury his dad was so worried about lose ends that we missed God's call. We need to focus on what God is calling us to do and less on what "we need to do"
4.) Don't look back. Enjoy the trip, don't worry about what's at home when you get back and don't worry about what you, "forgot" to do before you left. The man who said, "Let me go home first and get ready." was more worried about his affairs, his material life, and his home life than he was about God's call on his life. Jesus told him that once you put your hand to the plow, you never can look back. Don't let the events of the past runin your future. don't look back on where life has brought you to this point and feel gulity, but look forward to what God is doing now.
So there you have it. If we are to be safe on the road trip of faith we need to follow Jesus' road rules. If you have yet to join Christ on the road, if you are the one looking back, saying let me do this, or let me do that and then I'll follow Jesus...stop. You will never be good enough, you will never have your life in order enough to be right enough to follow Jesus. Stop, drop everything and hit the road with Jesus....just believe and have faith.