Our theme for the season of Lent this year is: “Journey to Hope”…Over the next six weeks you will notice posters, graphics, sermons, and articles that relate to this theme….I want us to really pay attention as we travel with Jesus to the cross and realize that hope can be found even when we encounter some of life’s most difficult circumstances.
On Wednesday evening we experienced Ash Wednesday, the beginning of our journey…The ashes remind us where we come from and to what we will return…They also remind us that our hands will “get dirty” along our journey, but with Christ at our side hope is found even when we struggle.
Today’s scripture lesson isn’t really about little children; we are all God’s children and we need to hear this text in terms of how it affects our relationship with God. We need to consider who and what gets in the way of our relationship with Christ.
- Have people in your life blocked your ability to come to Jesus
with the open heart of a child?
- How do we find strength to move past these obstacles?
- How do we align ourselves with others who will not block us,
but will encourage us to reach the goal?
Today we are going to talk about the people who are on this journey with us…How can others encourage or discourage you when the going gets tough?
Jesus tells his disciples not to get between him and the children; don’t block the way for the children of God to find their way to Jesus. In fact, he’s pretty mad at them for standing in the way…He says: “Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child,
you’ll never get in.” “Simplicity” really does define our relationship with our best friend – Jesus Christ. As simple as this relationship may be, there are often people who manage to get in the way of us running into Jesus’ open arms…
* Sometimes married couples can get in the way of one another’s relationship with Christ, particularly if one is not a believer…Couples may often be at different places on their journey…It’s important to remember that, no matter where you and your spouse are along the path, Jesus is walking with both of you…You will each have times of walking side-by-side, of running ahead, and of lagging behind…That’s OK – Jesus is with you no matter what…The key is to keep loving one another through the journey and being strong enough to walk alone with Jesus from time-to-time.
* Parents can get in the way if they are skeptical of the church and religion…Students, listen to the quiet voice of God drawing you in…Love and respect your parents, but let us help you find ways to be part of the church and part of this important journey…As long as God is leading the way, you and your parents can manage to go on this journey together, even if it’s a source of conflict at home…God will make a way even when you can’t see the way in front of you.
* Friends who don’t go to church may encourage us to use our time differently…Social activities, video games, and the mall are just a few examples of fun things to occupy our time while getting in the way of the most important friendship of all – Jesus…That’s not to say that these things are inherently bad…But, when they take over your life and keep you from the things that are most important, then it’s time to re-evaluate how you are spending your time.
* People where you work may encourage you to work harder, work more overtime,
or spend more time at the office…These things may advance your career or earn more money or even win the respect of your colleagues…The problem is they can also get in the way of time spent in worship, study, and devotion…They can be obstacles blocking you on your journey.
* There are plenty of examples of people who can and do get in the way along our journey …Peer pressure, gangs, drinkin’ buddies, and other harmful relationships can block the road to hope. The people with whom we travel can make the good times better
and the hard times less difficult…They can also prevent good times and invite hard times…The question is: Who is with you on your journey to hope?
We’ve all taken trips in our lives…Some have gone around the world or across the nation…Some have only gone across the state or maybe just the Arkansas River…Think of who went with you on these journeys…What made the trip more pleasant or what turned it into National Lampoon’s Family Vacation? How many journeys featured you or the kids asking, “Are we there yet?” Have you ever traveled with someone who kept you from getting to where you wanted to go?
I want to encourage you today to consider being someone’s “travelling companion” on this Journey to Hope. Covenant with another person or persons to pray with and for them;
to offer encouragement; to be present with them…Don’t limit this to your spouse or family members; choose someone at random in the church or where you work…Agree to walk the journey together and become travelling companions even after Easter is behind us.
John Wesley challenged all Christians to partner with each other as travelers who hold one another accountable for our journey of discipleship…The people who walk faithfully with us help us to navigate around, over, and through the obstacles that may get in our way…Jesus tells us to respond with the simplicity and openness of a child. Perhaps it is only as we become as little children that we will recognize the full breadth of God’s mercy and God’s love…We do not walk this journey alone…Who is with you on the Journey to Hope?
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.