The Bypass and the Layby
(The Way Around)
Lent 2 – February 24, 2013
Luke 13: 31-34
Reverend Jan Wiley
Introduction to the Scripture – Luke 13: 31-34
In Luke 9:51, we have the beginning of Jesus’ journey as it says:
‘As the time approached for Jesus to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.’ Today’s passage strongly connects our Lenten journey to Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. The passage continues Jesus’ traveling “through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way. Today Jesus specifically discusses the likelihood that expectations will be defied – even Jesus will not do what others expect. Heavenly standards will confound the earthly status quo. And the Pharisees enter the scene to warn Jesus that Herod is seeking to kill him. Even with that threat, listen as Jesus symbolically describes becoming the mother hen that cares for her brood.
(This sermon series uses not only scripture but the inspiration of the movie The Way starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, who also wrote the screenplay. It is an amazing movie of grief and anger but also of learning, forgiveness and redemption. I suggest you try to watch the movie during this Lenten season. It can be rented on Netflix, found at Blockbuster or purchased online).
I have to admit that sometimes I envy the clarity that Jesus had about his mission. Even when threatened by that ‘fox’ Herod, Jesus is clear about his mission. ‘Go tell Herod’, he says, that ‘I will keep doing my ministry – I will drive out demons and heal people. I will do it today and tomorrow. And on the third day, (perhaps a prediction about resurrection), I will reach my goal.’
Jesus has a vision. A dream, God’s dream about who he is and how he will go about his life. And it’s clear he will do what he feels called to do. Even Jesus will not seek to meet the expectations of others but rather the expectations of God and his mission of redemption and love.
Jesus found out that even he wasn’t always understood – even by his own followers. Even the disciples couldn’t really imagine the possibilities of what God called Jesus to do. When Jesus couldn’t do his ministry with the disciples, he went around them.
We get that, don’t we? Even our family and closest friends don’t always understand us, our dreams, our vision for who we want to be. And that’s hard. If we don’t get support for our dream we sometimes just bury it, thinking our dream is not important or not appropriate. Or we are so far from achieving it, that we listen to those who say we can’t do it, it’s just too big. And the dream dies. Sometimes we happily move on to other things. We discover other dreams. And life is good.
But sometimes the dream just doesn’t die. It is just too strong and like Jesus, we have to embrace it because we just can’t let it go.
And when we feel that way, when we discover that deep dream, we may not be able to get from here to there in a straight line. Sometimes we have to find ‘The Way Around’ what others think we ought to do and be, to claim our dream. Sometimes we have to move around the expectations of others, as difficult as that can be, to be our truest self.
In the movie The Way, today’s brief clip shows Tom, the father, looking at pictures he found in his son Daniel’s backpack from his journey travelling the world before his tragic death.
In a flashback – Daniel tells his father that he is not going to finish his doctorate. Daniel shares his dream that he has to not only see the world but experience it. He knows he isn’t meeting the expectations of his father. But we can tell that his dream is burning so bright, he has to go, to travel. Daniel says: “Margaret Mead didn’t become a great anthropologist by staying in school.”
SHOW THE VIDEO CLIP
The scene is heartbreaking. Tom just can’t imagine that his son, close to earning his doctorate, would give it all up. It doesn’t make sense to him. And now some months later, to be faced with the fact that his son died on that journey is just overwhelming. Why couldn’t Daniel stay where he belonged? Didn’t he appreciate all that his father had done for him? Why did he have to give up everything that was stable and secure and safe to journey off? And how will Tom deal with his anger at his son and with his grief?
In a strange sense of communion, Tom decided as we saw last week, to complete his son’s journey on the pilgrimage from southern France to Spain’s Santiago de Compostela. He embarks, strangely enough, on his own Way Around the anger and the grief.
Tom’s response to his son’s death is totally out of character. He is an eye doctor, with adoring patients, a full schedule, and his Wednesday afternoon golf game with his buddies. There is no time in his ordered life for unexpected journeys, for walking a pilgrimage route. But somewhere deep, Tom understands that walking the Camino, his son’s intended journey, has become his own mission. He doesn’t understand why. It doesn’t make sense. But he listens to his heart and embraces this strange and unexpected way around and eventually through his grief and anger.
In walking the Camino, he bypasses all the expectation he has of himself and the expectations of others. He just starts walking and in doing so, we will discover that he finds himself.
On paper, it sounds so easy to move around the expectations of others and follow your dream. But in real life there are risks – especially when others don’t understand. It is hard to find your own direction and follow it. I think the power comes in truly claiming your own dream.
When I was 18 I lived in Scotland for a year. And they have highways and roads. But in more rural places they still had single lane roads. By that I mean roads only wide enough for one car. On these roads every half mile or so they would pave a small area just next to the road. It is called a layby. If you saw another car coming toward you, you pull over onto the next layby and let them pass and them move back onto the road. A cumbersome system at times but it works,
But a layby is a good metaphor. It is a resting place. A place to get your bearings. When everyone else is going full speed ahead, it is a place to pull over and make sure you aren’t just going along with the crowd but going in your direction.
When looking for pictures of a layby, I found a picture from Scotland that amazed me. It’s the small picture on the front of our worship guide today that shows a variation of a layby. On the upper left is the regular road (remember they drive on the left) and then you see the really fancy layby, with a parking area where they have built a labyrinth for people to walk.
A labyrinth is not a maze but a circuit that you walk by following a path into the middle and then back out. It has been a spiritual discipline for hundreds upon hundreds of years. In walking the path you walk toward the center where you seek to encounter God and then move back out into the world. I loved the image of being on the road, on a journey and stopping in the middle of it, in the wilderness of it, and pausing to walk the labyrinth to see if you are still going in the right direction.
That’s a great picture of Lent. A stopping and resting and discerning place in the middle of our year to check our direction. Lent allows us to use the layby to see if where we are going matches the vision that God has for our life. And Lent can help give us strength as we commune with God for the vision God has for our life.
Now our visions are all different.
Some are about getting balance in our life.
Or about getting healthier.
Or about doing our part to mend a broken relationship.
It may be about finding deeper joy.
Or getting rid of a pattern of thinking that is unhealthy.
It may be about claiming you are a beloved child of God and are going to start living that way.
It may be a volunteer project that helps others.
It may be a dream you have reclaimed or discovered since you retired when you have the ability to try something new and be a chef.
God has lots of dreams for us.
So use this week (this layby of Lent) to reflect and claim your dream.
Make room in your heart to truly embrace it.
Set aside time to follow that dream.
Use a walking stick to help you and find people to support you as you go.
Celebrate each small step along the way.
For the journey is what it’s about.
Remember: You don’t choose a life. You live one.