Sermons

Summary: 1988. We may be at a point in our lives where we know we will never fully realize our dreams, but we can find fulfillment if we can identify and encourage others to embody our values.

Several years ago a rather childish and tasteless movie, but nevertheless one good for escape purposes, made the rounds. The movie was called National Lampoon’s Vacation. It starred Chevy Chase, a batch of kids, fleeting glimpses of seductive models, and a monster station wagon that developed a variety of mechanical diseases as the family struck out across the country to visit a theme park in California. From Chicago to California by way of Arizona and a whole lot of unscheduled points in between, including the desert and a rainstorm and depositing a corpse on somebody’s doorstep. Although Mom and the kids were weary and worn and would just as soon have given up the whole tiresome project, Dad was insistent and always upbeat: we are going to see Wacky World. Don’t you kids want to see Wacky World? Oh, this is going to be great. Pay no attention to the fact that our car will barely run; we want to see Wacky World, don’t we? Don’t worry about all our money being gone; we left home without that card, but we’ll beg, borrow, or steal. We want to get to Wacky World.

Ah, but toward the end of the movie, as they finally get to California, having steamed through many dangers, toils, and snares, they drive up to Wacky World, and are amazed that the parking lot is empty. How could it be that there is nobody around at one of the country’s most popular amusement parks? And Chevy Chase and his movie family, with tongues hanging out, with wallets depleted, with spirits dragging, roll up to the gate to read the sign: Closed for Renovation.

A thousand miles of wandering: closed for renovation. Weeks of stress, strain, expense, exhaustion; closed for renovation.

Can’t you imagine that Moses felt a bit like that when he arrived at the banks of the Jordan? For forty years, a whole generation, he had led the nation through the wilderness. They had suffered hunger and heat, thirst and conflict, deaths and debates, but all the way along they were kept going by one thing: their leader had a vision of the Land of Promise. And when they had decided they would really rather go back to Egypt and to slavery than to face starvation in the desert, it had been Moses who had urged them on: But we’re bound for the Promised Land. Don’t you want to see the Promised Land?

When they had gotten caught up with the local peoples along the way; when they had become enamored of other gods or they had cast amorous on the local ladies, again it had been Moses who spurred them on with visions and promises: there is a land out there which God will give to you, it is a land filled with milk and honey, it is full of all good things. Press on, press on. Don’t you want to go to the promised land, that land where all is peace?

And now when they’ve come to the deep river, and now when they’ve finally come to Jordan’s stormy banks; now, at last, the journey is ended and they are just about to realize all of Moses’ dreams. It’s closed for renovation. Or at least, closed to Moses. Moses cannot enter. The Lord has promised the land to the people, but it will be under a new leader named Joshua, because Moses along the way violated the command of God, violated the vision, and so he cannot realize its fulfillment.

Wacky World is closed for renovation to Chevy Chase after the long trek across the country; the Promised Land is closed to Moses after the wanderings across Sinai and up through the Trans-jordan; and for many of us, there are visions which will never quite make it to reality, there are dreams which will never quite become concrete, there are hopes which will remain hopes and not fulfillments. A man wants to build a business that will prosper and succeed and spends all his life getting it ready, and it’s just about to be profitable, but he has a heart attack and cannot finish. A woman spends a lifetime in the research lab, tracing down the answer to some nagging medical puzzle, and is on the very verge, she thinks, of finding the solution, but the government, in all of its irritating wisdom, cuts off the grants and there is no more funding for her work. A parent scrimps and saves to send that promising young child to college and on the day after graduation from high school that youngster announces that he or she has no intention of signing up for four more years of school – going off to Timbuktu or somewhere to contemplate life.

A whole lot of us are Moseses who have had visions and have nurtured dreams, and get a rude awakening one day. It may not be quite as dramatic as what I’ve pictured. It may just be waking up one morning to realize that you are no longer in your twenties, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and able to endure almost anything, and that you just aren’t going to get done everything you wanted to do. You know what, some day that might even happen to me! I am the kind of person who never quite got out of his twenties, not to mention leaving behind the thirties; and bless Pete, when I helped clean out my Mother’s apartment last week, I found my original birth certificate, and it says 1938 on it. That has to be a misprint; that can’t be right!

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