If I had one hour and thirty-five minutes to deliver this sermon, I would set up a screen and show you The Muppet Movie. If you haven’t seen it, you should. In my humble opinion, even four decades after its release, it is well worth the $3.99 it costs to rent it, or if you happen to have a subscription to Disney Plus, you can watch it for free. In case you haven’t seen it, I will tell you that it’s all about Kermit the Frog, who sets his sights firmly on the goal of a career in show biz and embarks on a cross-country trip from the swamps of Florida to the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. Along the way, he encounters various setbacks and adversities, including the relentless pursuit of Doc Hopper, who wants Kermit to advertise French fried frog legs for the restaurant he owns – an obvious conflict of interest for Kermit the Frog. In the end, however, Kermit ends up in Hollywood where he launches a successful career. But actually, the movie isn’t really about a frog’s search for stardom; it’s about the characters he meets and befriends along the way, including Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and the rock musicians Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. It is a classic tale of a character who makes a determined journey, and all he encounters along the way.
Not unlike the section of Luke which we enter this morning in chapter 9. This section, which lasts about 10 chapters, is often called the Lukan travel narrative, and it, too, tells of a determined journey – the one that Jesus makes from Galilee to Jerusalem and all the people he encounters along the way. Yes, you heard correctly. I am comparing the Lukan travel narrative to The Muppet Movie and the true Son of God to a fictional frog. I know that sounds crazy, but please hear me out!
Just like Kermit set off for Hollywood in a determined manner, Luke tells us that Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem. He set his face. Can’t you see the determination in that phrase? Now granted, Jerusalem is very different than Hollywood. Hollywood is bright lights and success; Jerusalem was the place, as he had already told the disciples, where Jesus would suffer and die. But both Kermit and Jesus had a goal, and they both set off with great determination.
Just like Kermit encountered roadblocks along the way, Jesus also encountered difficulties. It didn’t take long for Jesus to run into his first obstacle. And it came from his own inner circle! When the Samaritans were less than welcoming to Jesus and his cohort, James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven to wipe them out. That’s not what the Son of God had in mind. So Jesus rebuked them, probably for their lack of compassion, but also probably because James and John had so easily become distracted from the goal. Jerusalem was the goal, and with his face set toward that goal, Jesus was not about to let anything change his course. It would seem, too, that Jesus was pretty realistic about the other challenges that lay ahead: the lack of a place to call home on the journey, the need to put the quest first above all family obligations. It would be a tough road, Jesus knew.
But here’s something I notice about Jesus’ journey. And this is where the journeys to Hollywood and Jerusalem are most closely and meaningfully related in my mind: neither Kermit and the Muppets nor Jesus and the disciples took a direct route. The Muppets got lost because – well – they’re the Muppets. But if you plotted Jesus’ journey on a map, you would see that, in spite of his determination to head for Jerusalem, he did not take a straight path from A (Galilee) to B (Jerusalem). He appears to have wandered through the countryside, meeting people, making friends, healing the sick, lifting up the lowly, telling stories about the kingdom, and sharing the good news. The destination was important. The destination was the primary goal. But the journey was important, too.
As Christians, we, too, have a destination. We children of God know where we are headed when this earthly life is over. But our roads take many twists and turns along the way. Some of those twists and turns are good and pleasant. But others are real setbacks, taking us to places we never wanted to go, to situations we never wanted to face. But no matter. Our final destination is still the same. Of that, we can be confident. And as we keep moving down the road, we will have many opportunities to do as Jesus did – to make friends (even with people with whom we disagree), to be agents of healing (in a world where so many are hurting in so many ways), to lift up the poor (by sharing our resources and standing up against injustice), to tell the story of our faith and to share the good news of God’s love and forgiveness. Let us not be distracted from the goal or from all the chances we get to put God’s love into action along the way.
Perhaps Kermit and Fozzie said it best when they sang this song:
Movin’ right along in search of good times and good news
With good friends you can’t lose
This could become a habit!
Opportunity knocks once let’s reach out and grab it
Together we’ll nab it
We’ll hitchhike, bus or yellow cab it!
Movin’ right along
Footloose and fancy-free
Getting there is half the fun, come share it with me
Moving right along
We’ll learn to share the load
We don’t need a map to keep this show on the road.
We just need to keep our eyes fixed on the one we follow.
Songwriters: Ascher Kenneth Lee / Williams Paul H. Movin’ Right Along lyrics © Fuzzy Muppet Songs