During a week when more Americans travel than any other, I am drawn to the concept of journey. Not necessarily a journey of planes, trains and automobiles, but one of quest, seeking answers, fulfillment or meaning. All of us are on a journey of some sort and in a week when one might be distracted by expectations of “journeys” to a picture perfect family gathering, a gourmet “Martha Stewart” meal, a winning Turkey Day football game, or bargain filled early morning shopping spree… it is a fitting time to reflect on our journeys and give thanks for all who guide us along the way.
Author Gail Ramshaw points out that the image of journey or quest is common in world religions and implies an arduous search for a distant goal of enormous significance. In the Bible there are many examples of journey quests and pilgrimages from Abraham and Sarah, the people of Israel through the sea and desert, Wise Men following a star, to Jesus walk to the cross. While Christians do not journey on pilgrimage quests, the image of journey is a metaphor for Christ, our communal life together and seeking to live out our faith daily along the way.
Journey’s can be idealized and often don’t seem to make any sense when we are in the middle of them, stuck in traffic, delayed in our quest, lost in a fog, or wishing we had a “Garmin” GPS for our lives. Our quests can seem random, even absurd at times as we seek “Holy Grails” of our own. In Monty Python’s Holy Grail movie classic, the old bridge keeper asks each of the King’s men three questions. If they get them right, they can cross. If not, they are thrown into the chasm the bridge crosses.
Bridge Keeper: What is your name? First man: Sir Lancelot
Bridge Keeper: What is your quest? First man: I seek the Holy Grail
Bridge Keeper: What is your favorite color? First man: Red
Bridge Keeper: Off you go then.
Bridge Keeper: What is your name? Second man: Sir Galahad
Bridge Keeper: What is your quest? Second man: I seek the Holy Grail
Bridge Keeper: What is your favorite color? Second man: Blue, no Green.
AHHH… (as he is thrown into the chasm)
Bridge Keeper: What is your name? King: Sir Lancelot
Bridge Keeper: What is your quest? King: I seek the Holy Grail
Bridge Keeper: What is the average airspeed velocity of an unlaiden swallow? King: African or European?
Bridge Keeper: I don’t know, AHHH… (as the bridge keeper is thrown into the chasm).
Thomas Merton in his book Thoughts in Solitude admits the following about his journey: My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. . . I may seem to be lost and in the shadow but I will not fear for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Or as the Psalm writer states in 139:2 “You trace my journeys and my resting-places and are acquainted with all my ways.”
May your quest for finding meaning, direction, purpose, your enormous significance be filled with safe travel and the company of others…
Creator God, Companion Jesus, and Sustaining Spirit,
Protect and guide us on our journey, help us as we prepare to travel, seek and find. In this time of travel, make our ways safe, homecomings joyful, and bring us closer to you. Amen.