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Walking the Trail (Trail Blazing #1)

. 6 min read

(Sorry, no video this week.)

10/02/2016
Christ Mountain Top
Genesis
3.1-13 (kids)
Psalm
1  
Introduce Trail Blazing
theme
insert (in program):
      I have been looking forward to this
October message series. We will be talking about discipleship, about the
practicality and the joy of following Jesus. We are calling it “Trail Blazing”,
and including, in the process, an invitation to each of us to step out on some
new adventures with Jesus, to grow in the practice of our faith. Today, we
introduce the themes. Over the next three weeks, we’ll explore the three
dimensions of discipleship that we describe here – worship, community, mission
– friends, purpose, life. Then, on the final Sunday of October, we’ll put it
all together and celebrate the new adventures that God is calling us to
embrace.
      So, please take this insert home, read it,
and pray over what God will do in our hearts as we consider new ways to grow as
disciples of Jesus.
Theme Scripture
for the series:
Since
we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let
us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,
and
let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
looking
to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,
who
for the sake of the joy that was set before him
endured
the cross, disregarding its shame,
and
has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider
him, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.
from Hebrews 12:1-3
A
couple years ago, mom and dad’s neighbor (Robin’s parents), walked the Appalachian Trail, the whole thing,
straight through, over several months. Walking a trail, whatever trail you
pick, and doing it long enough, changes you. He came back with his knees a
little creakier. He came back more patient in life. He came back a bit more
interested in being alone and quiet (though he had always been oriented that
way).
      The metaphor of journey, captured in the
biblical language of “walk” and “way”, is one of the most basic metaphors for
discipleship, for what it means to follow Jesus.

Enoch
“walked with God” (Genesis 5.24)
Abram
was called to “walk before me and be blameless” (17.1)
Jesus
tells a lame man to “rise and walk” (Matthew 9.5)
We
are called to
      “walk by faith, not by sight” (2
Corinthians 5.7)
      “walk by the Spirit, and not gratify the
flesh” (Galatians 5.16)
      “walk [in good works]” (Ephesians 2.10)
      “walk in a manner worthy of the calling”
(Ephesians 4.1)
      “walk in love” (Ephesians 5.2)
One
of the first things we learn as
human beings is to walk. We start
with rolling over, then crawling, then pulling ourselves up on something. There
are steps to the process. I remember lifting my boys by their hands, setting
their feet on my feet, and “walking” them, giving them an opportunity to sense
the motion of shifting weight from one foot to another. [New baby]
      So, every day, God visits with God’s
children, the man and the woman, and walks with them. Until one day, God shows
up and the kids aren’t there. They’re hiding, and not for fun either. They have
chosen not to walk with God. They have chosen their own way. This is not about
differentiating from parents, this is about choosing a way that leads only to
destruction. And, it is heartbreaking for God. Those daily walks in the garden
are over. Yes, it remains possible for humans to walk with God. But now we’ve
got a bunch of junk, a bunch of baggage, a bunch of sin, in the way.
Blessed
are those who do not walk in the advice of the wicked,
Or
take the path that sinners take (Psalm 1.1)
Like
the story of God’s first children, this psalm contrasts the two ways before us:
the
LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but
the way of the wicked will perish (Psalm 1.6)
Like
the story of God’s first children, the psalm includes an organic metaphor as
well. In the story, there is a tree of life opposite a tree of the knowledge of
good and evil. In the psalm, there is
a tree contrasted with chaff, the dried husk and dead matter from threshing
grain:
They
are like trees planted by streams of water,
which
yield their fruit in its season,
and
their leaves do not wither….
The
wicked are not so,
but
are like chaff that the wind drives away. (Psalm 1.3-4)
Jesus
talked about these two options in terms of two ways that we can walk:
Enter
through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads
to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the
road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew
7.13-14)
So
often, we reduce obedience to God to prohibition: Don’t lie; don’t steal; don’t
commit adultery; don’t eat from that tree. We miss the fact that all the
compulsive obedience in the world has nothing to do with a relationship, with
choosing the tree of life, with walking together.
      Since January 29, 1989, I’ve been walking with Robin. That is the date
that I told her, “I like you.” Now, neither of us had ever walked with anyone
before. And I’m just a little odd, and at that time a bit awkward socially. I had
no idea what I was doing. When we hold hands, should it be my left hand to her
right hand or her left hand to my right hand? Should we clasp hands, interlock
fingers, or only join pinkys? She’s short and I’m super-tall: Do I shorten my
stride, add a stutter step? And, if we want to change cadence, how do we do
that – together? Maybe this is why it took us until September of that year to
have our first kiss.
      Walking with Robin is so much more the
technical work of walking, and so much more than the prohibition of adultery. Walking
with God is so much more than showing up at church and avoiding vices. It is
about a relationship that grows with us. It’s about destiny and company. That is, about a destination that we have
chosen and the company that we have chosen (namely, each other).
In
the language of the psalm, our destiny is richly described:
      Blessed
      Delight
      Meditate
      Fruitful
      Un-withering
      Prosper
      Watched over
The
descriptive terms capture two basic themes – being with God (the life of worship)
and participating in the work of God (the purpose of mission). The purpose of
mission – fruitfulness and unwithering leaves are used by Jesus when he calls
his disciples to “bear much fruit” (John 15) and show up in the Revelation –
destiny language in the Bible if there ever was any – in the description of the
tree of life in the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem (Revelation 20-21). The
life of worship – blessed, delight, meditate, prosper, watched over – is a
reminder that worship is not all about us but all about God and God’s grace.
In
the language of the psalm, our company is less richly described. The psalm is
focused more on destiny than company. But company is in the text: “The
congregation of the righteous … the way of the righteous”. They describe the
friends of community that we describe in our values.
      In the language of the Genesis 3 story,
our company is God and other human beings. We walk with God, yes, and we walk
with God together with others.
Following Jesus is never walking alone.
It
is a joyful journey, like walking with our children or our lover. It is an
adventure, like hiking the Appalachian Trail. Both Jesus and the “great cloud
of witnesses” have gone before us to blaze the way. We leave blazes for those
who follow after us. Whether we are learning to walk as a child, or later in
life after stroke or injury, we learn by practice. In the same way, the
spiritual practices of walking with God have been remarkable consistent through
the ages – a life of worship, community and mission – prayer and the
Scriptures, small groups and the gathered congregation, the Sabbath and the
tithe, hospitality and reconciliation, invitation and social justice. You will
see nine of these basic practices listed on your insert, three for the life of
worship, three for the community of friends, and three for the purpose of
mission.

      We don’t get to our destiny in a day, but
in a lifetime. We don’t celebrate momentary company, but long term friendships.
The destiny and the company happen because of the practices. This month, we
celebrate the trail and the practices that keep us moving toward our destiny
and enjoying the company along the way. Today we turn to this table, a table
that celebrates our destiny at the table of the Lord and our company among the
people of the Lord.