September 19, 2021: Detours

road with yellow lines

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost


You are on a trip you have often taken. The way is familiar. Suddenly a detour sign appears. In today’s Gospel reading we see the disciples walking along with Jesus, anticipating that soon he will proclaim his messiahship and they will be a part of it. Suddenly Jesus throws up a detour. He tells them of his impending death. Jesus’ announcement is not just a detour. It seems like the end of the road. But soon they have returned to imagining how they will fit into their expected partnership with Jesus. Who is going to be the leader? Who is his favorite?

We too have all experienced detours. Over a year ago we encountered such a detour with the Covid virus. We couldn’t have imagined over 500,000 deaths in the United States, churches closed down, family visits limited, all our normal activities stopped. Perhaps as we experienced this unfamiliar road, we sought comfort from our faith relationship. Maybe our prayer life grew as we prayed for our family, our friends, our elderly, even our nation.

We may soon find ourselves back on a familiar road. But the familiarity can lull us into a return to the everyday pettiness that distracts us from the faith journey that Jesus calls us to take with him. As we assume some normality in our life, the attention we have been giving to that relationship, and the trust that we felt necessary, may diminish.

Jesus warns the disciples about his impending death, not to scare them but to alert them, to prepare them for a time when they will have to walk alone, in hope that they will be ready. The Gospel writer includes this episode to prepare us for those times when we too may feel alone on the path.

But we know that this is not the end of the story. Jesus does die, but he dies for us. In his death we received forgiveness and in his resurrection new life. The journey may be filled with many detours; but to those who believe, the road ahead is straight.

Jane Harberg, retired pastor
Lake Mills, Wisconsin