As his life and ministry drew to conclusion Paul was determined (like Jesus before him) to go to Jerusalem—even though doing so meant danger and possible death.
Every now and then I meet someone who is intent on going where they feel they must, despite the risks involved. A doctor who goes to the Sudan regularly to perform surgery. A young woman who takes meals to shut-ins in a dangerous part of town. A chaplain who goes week by week into a high-security prison where no one feels safe. A pastor who walks into an angry crowd to listen and to speak. A young bartender from NC State goes to Dufar and risks his life to dig wells for those who have no clean water. First responders head into the teeth of a Hurricane in order to be there with the need is most intense.
They go, despite warnings, despite danger. They go not just because they want to, but because somehow they must. God is in their journey.
Sometimes we imagine that God’s chief duty and central concern is our comfort and safety. We think that what God cares most about is our happiness and health. Maybe that is true, but then again, maybe not. Maybe what God cares most about isn’t our comfort and safety but about the height and the depth, the range and the reach of our lives.
It occurs to me that the heavenly host (we hear about in creation) may well have counseled God “don’t go there.” “Don’t go to the earth; or if you do go, don’t — for sure — go as one of them, vulnerable to suffering, exposed to evil.” But that is what God did in Jesus. He went there, he came here. And because he did, we can — you can — too.
You can go where it’s hard to go, even where there is some danger. Go and God shall be with you.
Eternal God, you call us to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with courage, not knowing where we go but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (A prayer of Martin Luther.)