When we lived in Elizabeth City, I found myself coming to Raleigh frequently for meetings (as in two to three times some weeks). I’d leave home at 5:30 in the morning to be at the Methodist Building by 9 for a meeting, sit through a meeting that would last until 4 or 5 in the afternoon and then began the three hour-plus drive home.
I learned early on that there was no point in driving from Raleigh to Elizabeth City when I was tired late in the day. It was too long and too much. It seemed like I’d never make it. Instead, I created other destinations. I would drive from Raleigh to Rocky Mount (about an hour). Then, I would drive from Rocky Mount to Williamston (about another hour). Finally, I would drive from Williamston to Elizabeth City (the last hour). By mentally breaking the trip into stages, it would become manageable. I found that I could make that trip, whereas the thought of driving all the way seemed to be too tiresome to someone who was already weary.
We are told that the children of Israel, set free from bondage to Egyptian captivity, “journeyed by stages” in the wilderness. They didn’t move from bondage into self-governing liberation in one move. Journey time was required; wilderness time was required. They had to re-acquaint themselves with the God who saved them. They needed to be renewed in covenant. They learned that the change God works may come in incremental steps and the final destination may not be the first stop on the road.
We will take a look at that story (Exodus 17:1-7) as we worship this Sunday. We’ll hear about “journeying in stages” and we’ll be reminded that the journey is not always comfortable. We’ll rediscover the truth that a journey is rarely linear, but has twists and turns and takes us places we didn’t expect to go. We’ll also take a look at a resurrection story (Matthew 28:1-10) and find that Jesus promises that he “goes ahead” of us to the next place, that he leads us on to the final stop on the road. And we’ll gather at the table to observe World Communion Sunday to be reminded that God provides both sustenance for the journey and traveling companions with whom to share both the journey and the meal.
Hope to see you tomorrow at the journey’s weekly “rest stop.”
Grace and peace.