I thought I'd post my piece from our church magazine this month (as I do from time-to-time) because it has a bearing on my continuing reflections on Alan Roxburgh's book.
I was talking to some friends recently about their summer holiday plans. Well, it’s the time of year for it, isn’t it? The days getting longer and warmer, we’ve found our summer clothes at the back of the wardrobe and begun to daydream about sun, sea and sangria.
Our conversation was actually more about travelling to and from our summer break destination because, we agreed, that that was one of the best parts of the holiday. Journeys are often times of discovery, finding new places, seeing things we’ve never seen before, even meeting people in hotels and restaurants who pass on tips about what to go and look at.
Journeys are like this because we are away from the familiar surroundings of home, exposed to new experiences, invited to take a fresh look at our lives. As a church we are on a journey from what we were to what God wants to be. This is a permanent feature of Christian living. We only stop travelling when we reach our destination in God’s completed Kingdom.
Some people like travelling and others would rather stay put. For some the open road is a place of adventure and discovery; for others it’s a place of uncertainty and discomfort. The temptation for the latter group is to book into the nearest inn and say ‘this far and no further.’ The trouble with this is that we are in neither the familiar surroundings of home nor the promised comfort of our final destination.
It was for nervous, even unwilling travellers that Luke wrote the central section of his gospel. Uniquely among the gospel writers, Luke has a long section that is known as the ‘travel narrative’ that tells the story of Jesus’ journey from Galilee in the north down to Jerusalem in the south and his final confrontation with the powers-that-be.
He seems to have had two reasons for compiling his account the way he did. The first is that it gave him a good place to put all the material that no other gospel writer used – the parable of the prodigal son and the good Samaritan, the meetings at Mary and Martha’s home and with Zacchaeus, for example. The second is that he enabled him to spell out what following Jesus is all about. The travel narrative is a handbook on discipleship written for small groups of Christians scattered across the Roman empire in the second half of the first century, wondering how to live as followers of Jesus in a somewhat hostile and fast-changing world.
Luke 9:51-19:27 is about being a disciple of Jesus. The focus of these chapters is on the folk who are on the road with Jesus: how does he expect them to live as his followers, what will their life together be like, what kind of values will they embody in their relationships with neighbours and work colleagues?
Through this spring we will be making this journey with Jesus and his friends hoping to learn what it means to be a disciple in Bromley in 2011. We will be thinking about the nature of our life together and how we can make Jesus known to our friends and neighbours. It is a crucial journey for us to make because we live in a fast-changing and at times confusing world where the old certainties of home have been swept away and not replaced by anything so solid and sure.
Just before Easter, I was sitting outside a café in Victoria, warmed by the sun, watching office workers scurry in and out getting lunch to take back to their desks. He was with one of them, a young man, successful at work, happily married with a growing family. They had recently left their church and we were talking through the steps that had led up to that decision.
Neither he nor his wife loved Jesus any less; both wanted to continue serving him in the way they lived their life; both were keen to explore what being a disciple of Jesus meant with other followers. But neither of them could do church any more. He spoke of the decaying formality of it all, the superficial relationships, the tedious round of singing and sermons. He had been going to a lively, charismatic fellowship, and yet…
They had launched out on a somewhat perilous journey to discover Jesus on the road. They are looking for connection with a like-minded group of travellers who take Jesus seriously and want to live by the values of his Kingdom as they travel to their final destination. They also want to share what they’ve discovered about Jesus with people along the way.
In many ways they are living in Luke’s travel narrative, hearing the call of Jesus to follow and being prepared to leave the security of home to meet him and know him better. Are we prepared to make the same journey together?