Summary: Commitment to the living Christ will let Him break down circumstantial, cultural, and spiritual barriers to our success. Illustrated with the story of Marian Anderson.
I think it was John Lennon, one of the Beatles, who once observed, "Life is what happens while you are making other plans." That really is the issue, isn't it? Getting a fix on our lives. Getting hold of life. Being able to make it go the way you want it to go. And the trouble is that life just keeps on happening, or worse, just keeps on getting away from us, while we are working on the game plan. "Life is what happens while you are making other plans."
So the issue with life is not how tough it is or how busy it is. It is not how exciting it is or how much work it is. The issue with life is not even how long it is. The issue is how full of meaning life is. Not how full of stuff, how full of activity, how full of work or of play; maybe not even how full of people, but the issue with life is always how full of meaning it is.
That creates a problem for us. That frustrates us, because, even when we identify what our purpose is, we cannot always get it done. Barriers seem to leap up and stop us. Even when we know how we want to use our lives, even when we can clearly focus on where we want to go, we cannot always make it happen. Something blocks the way; some barrier looms large to prevent us from the goal of a meaningful life.
You know the old story, don't you, about the motorist who got lost on some back road, trying to find his way to a particular town? He'd strayed from the beaten path, and he had no map, so he did the next best thing. He stopped and asked an old farmer out in the field, "How do you get to 'Hicksville' from here?" The old farmer stopped and thought a minute, hemmed and hawed, and then said, "Well, there's the river road ... but no, the bridge is out. There's the farm-to-market highway, but they're rebuilding that. There's the old country lane, but at this time of day farmer Brown drives his sheep down that one. Face it, mister, you can't get there from here!"
It seems that's the way it is. Something is always a barrier to the kind of life we want. You can't get there from here. Life is what happens while you are making other plans, because there are barriers. Too many barriers.
I want you to hear today that there is a way to crash through the barriers. There is a means of breaking down the barriers that keep us from being what we want to be. Its name is Jesus. Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, has broken every barrier down. He makes a way where once there was no way. Because He rose from the grave, because He is alive, you and I can have a meaningful life. He will destroy the barriers.
For example, notice that one kind of barrier we face is simply the circumstantial barrier. One thing which keeps us from being all we can be is simply the circumstances in which we live: our wealth, our education, our family, the things we didn't choose, the accidents of life. Circumstantial barriers are the first things that block us; but the living Christ has a way of moving them.
When Mary Magdalene and the other women decided that morning to go to the tomb and anoint the body of the crucified Jesus, they knew full well the physical barrier that confronted them. They knew that a great stone had been rolled in front of the door to the tomb and that the stone had been sealed so that the body would not be disturbed. They knew that, and one of the gospels even reports their asking one another on the way, "Who will roll away the stone for us?"
They had a choice at that point. They could have decided to give up. Why beat yourself against a stone wall? Why not recognize that you are between a rock and a hard place? Why not just give up and take second best? We'll never be able to anoint his body with these spices; there's a huge stone there. Let's just turn around and go home.
But look at it! Even though they knew they couldn't move the stone themselves, they went anyway! They had a mission to perform, they had a task to do, and, even though they knew that the barrier was solid, that the odds were against their success, they went anyway. And their going was rewarded with the sight of a stone removed, a barrier gone.
There is a message here. The message is that when there are circumstantial barriers that seem to make it impossible for you to be what you want to be, go anyway. When there are insurmountable obstacles that block the way, and you cannot see the answer, go anyway. And the living Christ will open the way. The love of the risen Christ breaks down circumstantial barriers.