Journeying and our horizon!
I am very keen on the metaphor of life as a journey .. I think our passages this morning remind us of the fact we are all on a journey and importantly Jesus of Nazareth shared that experience of journeying through life .. in particular we recall this sense of pilgrimage at the end of his life .. as he travels towards Jerusalem.
When I finished school at the age of 18 I set out on a journey to explore the world. As part of that time I spent 9 months in Nepal, living in Kathmandu and trekking out into the Himalayan foothills for 3 out of 4 weeks each month.
One of the lessons you soon learn climbing mountains is not to trust false horizons. Often we would look ahead of us and see what looked like the crest of the mountain we were climbing. Tired and yet hopeful you put your head down and walk harder to make that final stretch to the top.
Of course once you reach the crest of that horizon ready to take in the stunning view on the other side you frequently face disappointment. It is not the top of the mountain but a false apex, a trick of the skyline. Beyond this false horizon was another climb just as high as the one you have made .. but this time you’ve got no energy left.
What do we learn then from our Gospel reading today about setting our eyes on the right horizons?
Our reading tells us that Jesus sets out on a journey towards Jerusalem which would mean great suffering. He sets his sights on Jerusalem … but I as he engages with Peter we see that this was not his final horizon. I think his horizon was beyond that particular place and event in his life!
Jerusalem was a false horizon .. a point in the journey which when reached did not mark the end of his journey. When Jesus reached Jerusalem he faced rejection and death yes .. but beyond Jerusalem he found resurrection and glory. Peter did not have this perspective and so wanted Jesus to change course. Why do you think it was important for Jesus to have a horizon .. a focus which was beyond Jerusalem?
In his letter to Rome Paul reminds us all that our journey is not an easy one .. we need to find ways to be hopeful, to be patient in suffering, to persevere (especially in prayer). Being reminded of our shared journey Paul exhorts disciples of Jesus to contribute to the needs of other saints; and to extend hospitality to strangers. This was a common virtue in Nepal where journeying was a shared part of life.
Sometimes when we look at a false horizon we gain a perspective on the size and magnitude of those things which can seem insurmountable when we focus on them close up. But seeing the true horizon always sets things in perspective.
Next to the horizon of eternity the events of life can seem a little less daunting .. our problems are often like a cruise liner, immense and looming whilst in port but quite insignificant when out in the perspective of the vast ocean.
There are big changes that take place in our lives from moving schools, to starting new jobs, to illness, the list goes on. But all these things become a little more manageable if we focus on the true horizon of our lives. I believe that horizon stretches out even beyond our lives in this world beyond death.
My question today then, to take away and ponder, is .. where is your horizon? What or where is it that you are focused? For each of us we must consider how having an eternal horizon beyond the false horizons of worldly success, or retirement, or passing exams, will give perspective to the other peaks and valleys in our lives.