Back at work now, I’m back on the road quite a bit. There are lots of road works happening and I’ve noticed the progress made. As with any regular travelling, you come to know the ‘local conditions’ – when to leave home so as to avoid the ‘build up’, how quickly this traffic light changes, when to get into the correct lane, which carriage of the train is better, and so on. But when there are roadworks or maintenance happening then the expected becomes the unexpected. Decades ago I might rage at the delay, now I sigh and endure it, but even in my new ‘calm’ (did I hear someone say ‘old’?!! ) state, I did begin to wonder what was hap-pening when I got home and discovered that the journey had taken me almost double the time and an extra 45 miles. This wasn’t just a small detour – get around it – and back on track. This was a long journey made up of 3 diver-sions that took me all over the countryside –to places I’d never been before! I did wonder ‘Why was that necessary?’.
I expect you will know what I am about to say! It seems obvious to me that travels can be a metaphor for quite a lot of living. We journey to destinations but not necessarily on the paths we thought we’d use. Family and marriage stories are replete with ‘life wasn’t what I expected’ – and that can be for good or for ill – but those telling the stories are who they are be-cause of the journey, of what has happened. I thought of this quite a bit as a child when I pondered my father’s life and journey to Australia where change meant that I wouldn’t have existed. (Strange what children think about!)
Over the years I have come to know the ELCE journey with the story of 6 bakers, contacting the USA for pastors, the theology of Luther in the language of Tyndale, living through the wars of the 20thcentury and then the activity of rebuilding and supporting people, homes, institutions, countries, theologies, and churches, the ELCE Master Plan for evangelism, mission, and growth, the establishment of Westfield House and theological education for here and the world, and of course all along the way are the people, the characters, the quiet ones, the reliable ones, the exasperating ones – sinners all – and baptised in Christ, therefore also sisters and brothers too. (Remember the adage, you can choose your friends but not your family? That sooo applies in the Church!)
I suspect the plans of the past didn’t envision the future as our present – not really. But part of that is being sure of the destination and churches need to be careful about organisational survival being the driving force for movement. (Part of the British political apoplexy at the moment is that there isn’t an agreement on what Brexit actually means and so the blurred destination makes for vacillating journeys.) Why does an ELCE congregation exist? What is its destination? I think it is about living the divine life of God now through a relationship with Jesus. I think it is about glorifying God with praise and service by living as disciples of Jesus under the cross. Yes, I know those words are ‘slogans’ almost but it is about having a confi-dence that Jesus is with us on the journey – loving, serving, forgiving, helping, blessing us – and we, in response, putting our best foot forward, so to speak, in whatever we do.
We are at the Last Sunday of the Church Year and can look back on what has happened –rejoice and learn from it – but in faith remember that Jesus has been with us all along the way. And we can take that confidence into the new Church Year. Jesus is still with us – hidden, unseen, but present and active – and the journey continues.