On Saturday I’m flying to Liberia to share in the Annual Conference of the Liberian United Methodist Church. I am excited about the trip and I feel privileged to represent our Conference, but I am also just a bit apprehensive. While I have done a lot of traveling in my life, I have never been to this part of the world. I don’t have any context for my imagination. Oh yes, I’ve seen pictures. I’ve talked to Rev. Dr. Charles Boayue, Detroit Renaissance District Superintendent, who is from Liberia, and whose advice was to watch out for the infestation of lions!! And yes, I have lived with my three foster sons who are from Liberia for the past seven years and have learned much about the culture, but I’ve never actually been to the place! And so I’m a little apprehensive about the journey.
As I thought about my upcoming trip, I was reminded of the text from Joshua 3:4. It comes as the Israelites are about to enter the Promised Land. It instructs them with these words, “When you see it (the ark), you must move out from where you are and follow it. Then you will know which way to go. You have never gone this way before.” What I have always taken away from this text over the years is that God is with us when we go into places and situations we have never encountered before. It requires us to pay attention, to look for the Spirit’s leading and presence, but God is with us, God will guide us as we go into places and situations unknown to us. And that is good news!
For while I’m dealing with the small challenge of traveling to a geographic location I have never visited, some of you are walking into much more difficult settings. Some are engaging new diagnoses and the journey of chemotherapy or some other treatment. Some are moving through the uncharted waters of divorce or unemployment. Some of you are wandering the twists and turns of grief and the sorting of life without that significant one who has always been there.
The good news that I would invite us all to hear again today is that as we go into every new place, as we walk into every new unknown location, God’s Spirit goes with us and leads us. May we do our best to pay attention to that Spirit gift and may we receive it with humility and hope.