Many years ago, a wise old gentleman said to me, “Faithfulness is a long journey in the same direction.” My, how I have been thinking about that over these last few months. I was all geared up to handle the pandemic through June – even July, but now it is getting tough – and the end doesn’t even seem to be in sight! What is a person to do?
I find myself struggling in two, or maybe three (or more?), ways. First, and likely foremost, is the emotional and psychological battle. I am tired of all of the restrictions. I yearn to hug and kiss, and to visit people in homes, hospitals and nursing homes. I want everything to be perfect like it used to be … though, as I say that, the voice of Truth says to me, “Things were never perfect – in fact, they were not even near as good as you now claim they were!” And then I remember – faithfulness is a long journey in the same direction. It is not about me and my selfish thoughts … it is about our faithful God and his will and ways.
I also struggle with all the new things I have to learn … like remembering to have a mask with me and putting it on at appropriate times. I need to improve our On-Line worship and be trained (motivated, too) in doing things on Zoom. Other lessons include developing a podcast, teaming with others to develop a Virtual Sunday School, creating a multimedia Junior Confirmation curriculum, and, most likely, a dozen other things I cannot remember or do not know about yet! I get tired just thinking about these things. Faithfulness certainly is a long journey … but our direction (or is that our Director?) always remains the same.
And I dare not forget about the faithful doing of my lifelong basic vocations, like growing in God’s word, prayer, and caring for family. I must take care of myself and similarly love my neighbor. And, in my role as pastor, there are those little things like sermons, parish mission leadership, and encouraging staff and constituency. In his book “Younger Next Year” Chris Crowley says that I should exercise for at least 30 minutes EVERY DAY for the rest of my life … and that certainly is not the only activity on the list. Do you get as tired as me when you think about being faithful in your many lifelong vocations?
My confirmation verse (way back on a Palm Sunday in the mid-60’s) has stuck with me all these years. Jesus saying to me, “Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2.10b). I used to joke about how the pastor skipped the first half of the verse as he laid his hand upon my head … “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil will throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation.” (Revelation 2.10a). As much as I am glad that he skipped part ‘a’, these days I am more and more thinking that the real challenge is found in part ‘b’ – this long journey in the same direction.
And, long before I reach my breaking point (usually, at least), he takes me to another verse ‘b’ – “God is faithful.” (1 Corinthians 10.13b). You may be more familiar with the ‘c’ – “He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10.13c). This “way of escape” consistently is “The Way” (John 14.6) … “the Word made flesh” (John 1.14). This Faithful One (he who comes to us in Word and Sacrament) tells us, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.” (John 15.7). What do you find yourself asking for these days?
This old friend of mine … I conducted funerals for both him and his wife many years ago and remain friends with many of his descendants … knew what he was talking about – even though I really did not understand. Faithfulness is a long journey in the same direction … but it really is the activity of my Savior, not me! He is the FAITHFUL ONE who, as often as I grow weary or faint, and as frequently as I get lost or selfishly choose my preferred ‘off the road’ path (hear the words ‘separating from the Way’), he faithfully comes to me in his word with what I need, (How does he say it in 2 Timothy 3.16?) “reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, that the man of God(that is you and me)may be equipped for every good work”(in other words – faithfulness).
Faithfulness is a long journey in the same direction. I am so very thankful that our “God is faithful” even when I (and possibly you, too) struggle. And that, when all of this and everything else is said and done, he will give us – purely out of his grace, mercy, and FAITHFULNESS, a “crown of life.” With this assurance of the prize, we can actually enjoy this LONG journey … each and every day … including those in which we struggle! Thanks be to God.