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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Riding the Bus with Jesus

Well my friends, it is time for my yearly pilgrimage to Montana to visit family. I will be taking the bus again. It is better than an amusement park. Instead of an hour long wait for a few minutes ride, you get a few minutes wait and a 48 hour ride!

I first did this quest in 2006 and wrote a sermon about it. I will leave it with you.

Riding the Bus with Jesus


Written in iambic pentameter
An heroic journey on a Greyhound
Deserves no less. Not a tale as much as
A philosophy, a theology,
If you will. Life’s journey is like a bus.
From place to place and back, from Tennessee
To Montana, and places in between
And beyond, the bus stays its course and rolls

Unknowing for its sake whom it carries.
Yes, the tickets have names and the baggage
Claims declare to whom each parcel belongs.
Yet the bus does not know who rides it, though.
Regardless of who rides or not the bus goes on
Day and night, over hill, through city street,
Dropping off, picking up indifferent
To the cares and thoughts of its passengers.

The bus driver has more human concern.
But even she or he is narrowly
Focused on safety and order and that’s
A good thing. But the driver does not know.
Too many come and go to pay notice
To their lives, their real lives. Indifference
Is the rule, the law of the Universe—
The bus universe that is. But I see.

I see and hear more of what goes on behind
The faces. Nothing supernatural
Have I. In fact, you would see, too, if you
Were there. Who are these pilgrims who travel
From Greeneville to Knoxville, Louisville to
Sheboygan? Where are you going and why?
We talk at times. I overhear half a
Story, and wonder about their journey.

One woman who speaks loudly and laughs much
Tells all who want to hear that she mimics
The stars. She dresses up like Wynonna
Judd and sings Wynonna’s songs. I notice
That she does resemble Wynonna a
Little. One man is an artist and can
Draw a picture of a race car in two
Minutes. Another likes to dance. She looks

Streetwise, I guess is the word. She has been
On the bus before. At the bus stop in
Indianapolis I find myself
Hungry. I head towards a White Castle
Across the street. A man with a big grin
Asks me where I am going. He can see
That I don’t belong at a White Castle
In Indianapolis at three in

The morning. “Out West,” I say and return
The smile. We both know the routine. And sure
Enough, after a little more polite
Banter he asks me for a couple of
Bucks. “I’m outta gas, man,” he says. I keep
Some ones in my left pocket for moments
Such as these. I give him two and wish him
Well. A tax for crossing the street at night.

Riding the big Greyhound bus with Jesus.
I transfer there and wait in line with my
Bags. A woman and her four children
Wait behind me. “Where are they from?” I ask
Myself. I am ashamed that I am such
A big dumb American that I can-
Not tell if they are from India or
Egypt. Maybe I should just call her an

Arab and make it simple. Why bother?
Why do I need to know? It matters not.
She, like me, is on the bus. It’s rude but
I look at her baggage tag. “Portland” is
Their destination. They have a long way
To go. I smile at her and the kids but
She looks away and says something to one
Of her children in a language I can

Neither understand nor identify.
I imagine that she tells them that I
Might be “Mister Stranger Danger. Stay close!”
Waiting is a good bus word. You wait to
Get on. You wait to get off. Some people
Are better at it than others. One man
Is upset that the bus is late and tells
Ev’ryone in earshot that things are bad.

I watch the television monitor.
Fox news is warning us that the gods have
Raised the terror alert to “Orange.” I
Do not know quite what to do about that.
I try, but I just don’t feel terrified.
I wonder if terror is like waiting.
What is the point to fret about waiting?
Why be tense? Life is one moment to next.

I have nothing better to do than be.
Waiting is missing out. What’s to wait for?
The bus will come when it comes. No sooner.
The bus doesn’t care how we feel. It can’t.
It is a bus. We get on. We get off.
In the meantime, what we call waiting is
Living. I’m not waiting. I am living.
We are all living, on the bus or off.

In Minnesota, I sit next to a
Woman about sixty or so. “No more
Hurricanes for me,” she says. “I’m going
To Billings, Montana.” “Really?” I say.
“I know that place well.” She has had enough
Of Florida. She asks me if people
Are nice in Billings. “Sure,” I tell her. “Nice.”
She’s moving to a place she has not seen.

Some people ride the bus to start over.
In the course of our conversation I
Tell her I am a minister. That makes
Her happy. She needed someone to trust.
From St. Paul to Fargo we talk about
Billings among other things. I tell her
About things to do and see, places to
Go. “You will like it there.” She is relieved.

On the bus we travel for a short time.
We know where we are going. We know when
We will arrive. We have no illusions
That the ride will last forever. Of course.
How silly to think otherwise! Because
Of that, we see each other as riders.
Pilgrims, journeyers, travelers, are all.
Riding the bus with Jesus. Where is he?

In Luke’s tale, two friends walk to Emmaus.
A stranger joins them and lightens their hearts.
They invite him to stay for dinner, and
As he blesses and breaks the bread, they see.
He is Jesus. As soon as they see him,
He vanishes. I think Luke wants to tell
Us that Jesus is not a body, but
Everybody. In the sacrament

Of human interaction, of kindness
Shared, in the lightening of hearts, we see.
The bus can’t see. We are the bus’s eyes.
We have the eyes to see the body of
Jesus in everyone around us, whether
We speak to them or not. We see. We hear.
We are aware that their lives are sacred.
Riding the bus with Jesus—is seeing.

I will be staying away from the computer but so you won't feel lonely, I have scheduled a few tunes about Montana to pop up each day.

In honor of my long-suffering congregation who could use a couple of weeks of peace, here is Roy Clark:


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