Many decades ago, when most uni students could not afford a second-hand car, hitchhiking was always an option. In those days it was safe; by putting your thumb out on the road-side within minutes you could be sitting in the front or back seat of a car having a friendly chat with a kind motorist.
There was, however, one major drawback: uncertainty. Hitchhikers had no timetables; they could wait minutes or hours for a ride. I once found myself in the Nevada desert (USA) standing in a long line of hitchhikers. Some had been there several hours and none of us knew when the next car would stop. We also never knew whether the ride would be for 5 miles or 500. But if you were young with little money and a sense of adventure it was a great way to travel.
The days of hitchhiking are well and truly over. It is dangerous and illegal, but I can’t help thinking there are parallels with this pursuit and ‘the road less travelled’ that Jesus calls us to. When Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee and saw Peter and Andrew, his brother and later James and his brother, John, Jesus invited them to “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:18). Maybe these fishermen had heard rumours about this carpenter/preacher. Maybe they had even listened in on one of his teachings or witnessed a miracle. Perhaps they felt a little bit like hitchhikers.
The road ahead was unclear; Where would Jesus take them? What obstacles would they face? Would there be roadblocks, delays, detours? Who else might join them and where would they end up? Many of these questions may have been churning in the minds of Jesus’ early followers. There were no guarantees, just the invitation to follow Jesus through thick and thin, trial and tribulation. There was probably a deep sense that the Galilean, Jesus, was worthy of their complete trust and devotion wherever that might lead.
Our journey as Christ’s followers in the 21st century has similar challenges. There is a vital place for strategic plans and compelling visions; there is a need to read the signs of the time, there are various sign posts God gives us, but in the end we have no certainty about what is before us. What we do have is the ongoing call to follow Jesus, the invitation to listen for the Spirit’s guidance, the road map of scripture, (preferable to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy). There is also the encouragement of fellow travellers (the Christian community) and the promise of the ever present companion, the risen Christ and the powerful hope of an eternal home.
This is the adventure of a life of faith. I don’t know about you but it is the ongoing journey I am signing up for.
Rev Steve Francis, moderator of the Uniting Church in WA