Let us pray: Loving God, you save all who seek refuge in you. Grant that we who know your salvation may walk always in your light, take courage in your faithfulness, and rejoice in your astounding goodness to us. Through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we pray. Amen.[1]

Fifty years ago, this past week, a young woman from the deep woods of rural East Texas set off for a journey that would change the course of her life. No longer inclined to wake up at 4:00am in order to catch a ride to school (one hour’s distance from home) to study a field for which she had no desire (secretary’s study), the young woman took a job aptitude exam that indicated she would do good in the United States Air Force. Having no prospects of a future by staying home, and having an incomplete understanding of what joining the United States Air Force entailed, the young woman set off with one suitcase of belongings including a razor that had belonged to her uncle and her Bible. Before she left, a recruiter for the Air Force told her mother that the young woman would be married within a year to which the mother responded with laughter.

Basic training was far more than basic. The young woman had to learn to groom, dress, walk, march, and talk. She went from using her middle name—the name she had been called her entire life—to using her first name. After graduation, the young woman set off for Tech School, where she met an airman who had a nice gold bracelet and perfectly polished dress shoes. He was from Chicago via Puerto Rico, and he opened the young woman’s eyes to a world she could never have imagined: racial injustice, romance, adventure, and love. The two married just one week shy of her first anniversary of entering into the Air Force.

I thought of this story for two reasons: 1) the story is about my mother, and on the date of her 50th anniversary of entering into the Air Force, I wrote to her as said, “I bet you never imagined the journey you would embark upon when you left home to join the Air Force,” and 2) the backdrop context in which Jesus speaks in the gospel account of Luke this morning is that Jesus himself is on a journey. Jesus is traveling “through one town and village after another, teaching as he [makes] his way to Jerusalem (Luke 13:22, [NRSV]). Jesus’ eyes are set on Jerusalem, and his eyes are set on the cross that awaits him at the end of his journey on earth.

Unlike my mother, Jesus does not naively set out on the journey to Jerusalem. Even before he was born unto us, Jesus’ mother sang a song of praise to God in gratitude for how God had “shown strength with his arm…scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts…brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly” (Luke 1:51-52). After Jesus was baptized in the Jordan by John and declared as “the Beloved,” by God (3:21), he returned to Galilee and set off on the journey that would lead him to Jerusalem. Along the way, Jesus never wavered and he never backed down. He proclaimed the truth of God’s kingdom to his hometown, who then wanted to hurl him off a cliff (4:29), yet Jesus kept moving forward: teaching with authority (4:31); healing the sick; associating with the tax collector. No matter what situation Jesus encountered, he did not become discouraged, and he did not give up.

This is encouraging for me because there have been plenty times in my life when I wanted to give up: when I have felt stretched thin in my education and in my workload, only to have another client in the speech clinic added to my load; when a member of my church sexually harassed me as I discerned my call to be ordained in The United Methodist Church; as I sat in my seminary apartment on that 108 degree day in August, looking at a syllabus for just one class that required about 200 pages of reading every week; and as I watched the church I love and the church I have vowed to serve behave harshly towards one another. I am not going to ask for a show of hands. I know, that at some point in each one of our lives, we have felt like quitting. Sometimes, we go further than feeling like quitting, though, don’t we? We quit. We allow the possible challenges we might face to derail us before we even start; we let the words of other people get into our heads and hearts and quit; or worse yet, we invoke a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure and fear that causes us to stop in our tracks. In times like these, we have to take stock and dig deeper. One of my mentors always reminds me, “the issue is never the issue.” When someone comes to me with a problem or complaint, there is usually something deeper underlying the words that are being said. The same is true of us. When we allow ourselves to be derailed, when we give up, it is usually because there is something within us that wants us to quit. It is hard and messy work to engage in self-reflection. It is much easier to outward and cast the blame for our quitting on those who are around us.

One could reasonably argue that Jesus accomplished all that he was able to accomplish because he is fully divine, God’s only begotten Son. Yet, we cannot also forget that Jesus was fully human, that the person who bore him and sang songs of praise to God was fully human, that the couple who raised Jesus as they feverishly searched for him amid a large caravan were fully human.

Maybe, it is that humanity of Christ that we need to contemplate during this season of Lent. Maybe, in witnessing Jesus’ resolve to see his journey through regardless of the obstacles like Pharisees, tetrarchs, and empires, we too, might find the resolve outside of ourselves to continue to place one foot in front of the other as we embark upon or continue in a journey. Maybe, we need to reach out to someone who is larger than we can fathom, someone who endured every human experience and emotion, and allow his journey to Jerusalem and to the cross to motivate and to encourage us as we journey on: journey on through the tense relationships and uncertainties in our households, journey on through the uncertainties of health crises that we or someone we love faces, journey on through institutions comprised of imperfect people discerning how and if to work and live with one another, journey on through periods of time marked by hatred, fear, war, injustice and oppression. Perhaps, in giving ourselves over to a fully human, fully divine Son of God, we too will find that which strengthens us and allows us to hope for a future that we have never dreamed or imagined. May it be so!

[1]               Long, Kimberly Bracken (ed.) Feasting on the Word: Worship Companion, Year C, Volume 1, (2012) Westminster John Knox Press, 109.