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Philippians 2:5-11,  The Longest Road Trip,     April 17, 2011
 
Philippians 2:5-11
5   Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6   who, though he was in the form of God,
          did not regard equality with God
          as something to be exploited,
7   but emptied himself,
          taking the form of a slave,
          being born in human likeness.
     And being found in human form,
8        he humbled himself
          and became obedient to the point of death —
          even death on a cross.
9   Therefore God also highly exalted him
          and gave him the name
          that is above every name,
10   so that at the name of Jesus
          every knee should bend,
          in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11   and every tongue should confess
          that Jesus Christ is Lord,
          to the glory of God the Father.
 
When people take a “road trip,” they usually mean that instead of taking the quick and easy way by hopping on a plane, they instead pack the car and head off on a meandering, lingering adventure. They want to enjoy the journey, not just get to a destination.
Jesus’ journey is to Jerusalem — through its gates, into the city and, ultimately, to the cross. The greater journey, and no doubt the longest journey in time and space, was the journey of the pre-existent Christ from a region far, far away — outside of time itself — into time and space.
Not only time and space, but he took on a human body, and the form as a servant, and then as a criminal to where it — for all intents and purposes — ends on the cross. That’s the longest journey ever taken.
At times, the trip was pleasant—sermon on mount, at Bethany with Martha, Mary and Lazarus; walking with disciples and teaching; socializing at dinner parties.
At other times, the trip was a dreary, trying and stressful journey—constant interruptions by people needing healing or deliverance, pressure from the religious groups of the day, constantly being asked to explain himself. No, the road trip was bumpy and sometimes meandered from one crisis to another.
During the course of his earthly ministry, Jesus was always on the move. Most rabbis and their disciples established "schools," centralized locations where others could come to them for information, debate, and discourse.
 
The great rabbis taught from a seated position, demonstrating that they were in their place, while their students crowded about them, standing at attention to hear their words.

Jesus broke with this tradition. He spent his entire career as an itinerant, wandering from place to place, refusing to set up a permanent place of residence, a "Jesus school." To be a student in the Jesus-seminary meant a walk, talk, and walk-the-talk pilgrimage.

--Jesus went out to the lakefront to talk Simon Peter and Andrew into becoming disciples.
--He sat kicking his feet in the dust at the edge of a well to meet the Samaritan woman.
--He made a healing house call to cure Simeon's mother-in-law.
--He walked right in to Levi's tax booth to invite him to "follow me."
--He interrupted a funeral to raise up the widow of Nain's son.
--He crossed the Sea of Galilee to heal the Gerasene demoniac.
--He entered Jairus' home to restore his daughter to life.
 
Even after his resurrection, Jesus was mobile - walking and talking his way to Emmaus with two chattering men.

Jesus not only met people where they were physically. He also met them where they were emotionally as well. He let the weeping woman anoint his feet with ointment and tears rather than engage her in any discourse.
He stood before the crowds, and before preaching his great "sermon on the plain," he healed them and soothed those with troubled spirits. When it was simple hunger that stirred the people's spirits, he provided them with loaves and fishes.

Unlike other powerful, charismatic figures, Jesus was never "full of himself." The Philippian hymn makes it clear that in order for Jesus to be the Christ, in fact, he had first to empty himself. But it was not just an incarnate Christ emptied of divinity who strode the roads all over Israel.
Jesus was also free from the loads all of us carry strapped to our backs - the weights of ego, of self-importance, of insecurity, of bigotry, of fear, of distrust.
Before we set out on a road trip, we make sure to be prepared.
 
--We fill the gas tank to the top so that we may travel as far and as fast as possible before we are forced to stop.
 --We also "fill up" the trunk with luggage, the back seat with junk, the glove compartment with maps and flashlights.
 
--We tuck in somewhere an emergency kit with flares and jumper cables and first-aid basics.
--And, of course, we throw a big bag of munch-while-you-drive goodies in the front seat within easy grasp.
 
We don't want to journey without being "prepared" first.

Jesus never worried about road trip preparations. He was constantly setting out empty so that he could pick up others' baggage along the way - their sorrows, their sins, their illnesses, and their despair. Jesus never stood on ceremony.
 
He journeyed along with people wherever their paths took them. He sat down among grubby crowds of children as comfortably as he reclined on the couches at a Pharisee's formal dinner party.

What is more, Jesus offered some very strange rules for the road:

- go the extra mile ...
- turn the other cheek ...
- give your coat and your cloak also ...
- cross the road to help - don't cross the road to hide ...

In this week's gospel text, which covers almost two chapters in Matthew (26 & 27), we read just how far Jesus would journey along the road that runs through the human condition.

- He rode a clumsy colt into Jerusalem to be in that holy city during the most sacred of celebrations, the Passover.
- He climbed to the Upper Room to dine with his disciples.
- He traveled through his lonely prayers in Gethsemane.
- He left with the soldiers.
- He confronted Caiaphas.
- He stood before Pilate.
- He sojourned with Barabbas.
- He stumbled to Golgotha.
- He took his final journey, up onto the cross.

To be a disciple of Jesus the Christ is to live life not standing against, but walking alongside. Jesus never "stood against" anyone. He always "walked alongside" everyone. He journeyed with people where they were and as they went.
 
Over and over again, Jesus crossed the street and "came to where he was" as he crosses the streets and comes to where we are today. Let us do likewise. Amen.




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