It took me a long time before I finally broke down and bought a portable GPS for my car. That was before smartphones. I’d been holding out like the thrifty Lutheran that I am. I weakened when I saw how it helped three cars of teenagers and adults get to New Orleans and back. Then I rode with a colleague from Paducah to a conference pastors’ meeting in Stendal, Indiana. His GPS told us exactly what time we’d get there. It was correct. It told us the speed limit on major roads. It found the shortest route to the church. Unfortunately, that meant driving on ten miles of gravel roads, winding through cornfields to get there. I didn’t know there were places in Indiana that you can’t get to from here. But we found several along the way.
I wish we had a GPS designed for the church. We need something to guide us through all the stuff we are going through these days. Oh, to have that wonderful female voice talk to us and tell us how best to navigate through the growing maze of rules and rituals, and the rights and wrongs of religion. If we make a wrong turn somewhere, to hear her say: “Recalculating. Go to the next synod assembly and turn around.”
The closest thing we have to a GPS in the church is Jesus, God’s Peace Secured. His directions will lead us to great places like the kingdom of heaven and eternal life.
You probably remember that Jesus said he is the way, the truth, and the life. The Aramaic word translated to English as truth means “right or harmonious direction; that which liberates and opens possibilities; or that which is strong and vigorous.” Jesus gives right and harmonious directions. He liberates and opens new possibilities. And he provides the strength to get to that place called “peace” in your world today.
If you’ve read any of my other posts or books, you know that the kingdom of heaven and eternal life are places you can reach in this lifetime. You can get to them from here. And they’re not very far away. Jesus said they are at hand…within your grasp.
There are several problems you’ll run into if Jesus is your GPS.
(1) Faith. One problem is that you have to believe his directions are the best ones to follow. When the Bible tells you to believe in Jesus, that means believing the whole package—believing his teachings are true, believing his example is the way you should live, believing his death leads to forgiveness of sins and resurrection. Belief, or faith, is the number one problem. It’s not easy to believe that nonresistance to evil or love for your enemies are the best ways to peace. But the directions he laid out and the route he took in his life will get you to the kingdom of heaven.
(2) Openness. Another problem if Jesus is your GPS is being open to new possibilities. When you think you already know the best route, it’s easy to be deaf to new possibilities, especially when you don’t understand how a different path is going to get you where you want to go. The story of the Syro-Phoenician woman comes directly after Jesus taught that his ancestors were wrong in calling Gentiles unclean. If Jesus wasn’t open to that possibility, he would have rejected helping this woman. Jesus said no person is unclean except the one from whom harmful things arise – like adultery, theft, fornication, deceit, wickedness, murders, envy, a negative outlook, putting others down, arrogance, unreasonableness. These are logs in one’s own eye. You can’t get to peace when they are in your path. Not only that but when Jesus opened the ears of the deaf man, he took him away from others as if to say, “Don’t listen to others. They’ll pull you back into the old way of thinking. Listen only to me.”
It’s very clear that Jesus said some things we don’t understand. Like when he said “Ephphatha” to the man who was deaf. For people whose ears are closed, Jesus speaks a foreign language. In Aramaic, that word means “be open.” To those who don’t believe his teachings are true, he says, “Be open to the directions I give. They will lead you to peace and the kingdom of heaven that is within your grasp.”
(3) Strength. Using Jesus as your GPS, you’ll need more strength than you can muster on your own. If you follow Jesus’s directions, a lot of people will attack you. They’ll revile you. They’ll persecute and even crucify you. But hang in there. Hold firmly to the Truth. He is with you always. In fact, St. Paul said Christ is within you. He will give you strength to rise again. It might take a couple of days to get back on your feet, but peace and the kingdom of heaven will return if you have faith.
It’s not easy to follow Jesus, but he is the GPS you should be using. He is the truth. He gives right and harmonious direction. He liberates and opens new possibilities when you follow his direction. And he provides you with strength to get where you want to go – to places of harmony and peace, within yourself and in the world you inhabit.