Twenty-six years ago, my children (three, six, eight, and nine at the time) had a dream. They dreamt of a Magic Kingdom; they dreamt of a whole new world: Disneyworld. A friend gave me a free week at one of the Disney resorts and free passes. All we had to do was get there. We couldn’t afford to fly, but we could drive.

I decided to surprise the kids, for I cherished the moment of revelation when they would exclaim “Daddy, I love you!” And I didn’t think they could bear the news if I told them too early; they’d just pop from a painful combination of joy and longing, called “hope.”

I mapped out our route and realized that we’d be travelling through Junction City, Kansas, my birthplace. So, when they pressed for information — “Where are we going on summer vacation? Where are we going?” — I said, “Kansas.” They said, “What’s there to do in Kansas?” I said “Stuff . . . trust me, it will be a good vacation.”

The day finally came. It’s about a six-hour drive (not counting potty stops) from Denver to Junction City. I had made hotel reservations in Kansas City (where we would rest), which is about one hour further on I-70.

When we exited I-70 in Junction City, the kids were so excited — they were pointing to hotels, they saw an old bowling alley. We toured the church my father pastored (First Presbyterian) and then sat down on the steps of the manse (the house I grew up in) next door. Across the street was the park that I had played in as a little boy.

The pastor of the church had given us a tour, and now he began a pre-arranged dialogue with me. “What is there to do here in Junction City?” I asked. He mentioned a lake, miniature golf, the bowling alley, etc., etc. The kids thought that it all sounded great. I said, “We’ve got all that stuff in Denver. We might as well keep going.” The kids were really confused now. “What happens if we stay on I-70?” “Well, if you go far enough and turn right, you’ll end up in Florida,” said the pastor. “Do you know of anything in Florida?” he asked the kids. My daughter finally said “Disney . . . World?” And at that I exclaimed, “Let’s go to Disney World!” Susan and I pulled out mouse ear hats, put them on their heads, and started dancing around singing, “We’re going to Disney World!”

“Do you want to go to Disney World?” asked Susan.
Jon said, “I’ll think about it.”
Elizabeth said, “I’d rather stay here.”
I said, “We’re going.”
Coleman said, “Shoot! I wanted to go to the park.”
Becky said, “I don’t want to get in the van.”
And then I said, “Just, get in the van.”

It was the most anti-climactic moment of my life. After I’d shut the van door, as I was walking around the back of the van, I had a thought. I think it came from God. “Hey Peter, Now you know what it’s like for me…you know: being your Daddy.”

Their hopes were not too great; they were too small. But you understand, don’t you? Junction City was in their grasp. The Magic Kingdom was a painful van ride away. “Get in the van” sounded just like “Pick up your cross and follow.”

I wasn’t lying. We did go to Junction City. It just wasn’t the end of our journey.
1 Peter 4:7 “The end (telos: completion, perfection) of all things is at hand.”

There is an end to all things, which means that all things are on a journey to that end. The only thing that doesn’t come to an end is “the End.” Jesus said “I am… the End, the Beginning, and the Way.” “To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18).”

Just as I mapped out our route, our Father mapped out our route from the Beginning to now, and on to the End. Genesis chapter one describes six “days” of creation, kind of like six hours of driving. On the sixth day, man is made in the image of God. On the seventh day, God rests and all creation rests, for “everything is very good.”

Where are we on that journey? Are you finished, very good, and the perfect image of the invisible God? If we take Scripture seriously, we must admit that “a day really is as a thousand years and a thousand (even billion) years is as a day,” and we are moving about in the sixth day of creation. The seventh day doesn’t start until Jesus — Word, Meaning, Judgment, Goodness, and Life of God — cries, “It is finished (Tetelesthai: ‘It is the Telos’),” from a tree in the middle of a garden at the end of the sixth day. At this tree, he gives us his eternal Life, and knowledge that God is Good. A “Christian” lives in time with eternity in his or her heart.

And this means that the deepest story is not that God made everything good, we messed it up, and now God is trying to fix things with Jesus. It means that the deepest story is that God is making us in his image with his Word, who is Jesus, and he will not fail; it means that he is taking us all on a journey, and we will arrive at our destination, although we now find ourselves at a junction. A junction is a point in time where a decision is made. To be more precise: It is the point where the decision of God makes us with “faith, hope, and love,” and we get in the van. Jesus is the Van. Jesus is the judgment of God, our Father. Jesus is the Way. Jesus is the will of God in flesh. So, get in the van.

1 Peter 4:2 “… No longer in human passions, but in the will of God. For the time (chronos) that is past suffices for doing the will of the unfaithful, moving about in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties and lawless idolatry.” Are senses, passions (Jesus has a passion), wine, sex, and parties bad? Actually, they’re signs pointing to the Kingdom. If you read the signs and keep going, they’re sacraments; if you trade the Kingdom for the signs, they are idols, and turn into hell (hell #1, Hades). Junction City isn’t bad; it’s actually a necessary stop on the journey (hell #3). And non-stop ecstatic communion in the passion of Christ and body of Christ our Groom is the destination (hell #2; The Kingdom Heaven).

How do we escape the temptations of Junction City? We “get in the van.”
Where is the van? It’s parked in the Sanctuary of the Tabernacle; he’s in your heart.

What would have happened if my kids hadn’t gotten in the van? Would I have said, “I respect your free will. Goodbye forever”? Hell, no! My kids are my Magic Kingdom. I would have descended into Junction City with them, and then after three weeks of sitting in front of the Tasty Freeze languishing in 105-degree heat, I would’ve said, “Hey let’s get in the van.”

1 Peter 4:6 “For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the Spirit the way God does.”

With just a seed (an imperishable seed) of faith in me, which I had planted in them, my kids got into the van. And their hope grew, I helped them hope that which they couldn’t bear to hope in the beginning, and that which they could barely hope in Junction City. I didn’t map this part out, but I think God did. It happened over and over again. We’d be standing in line for Space Mountain or walking along the beach under the stars, and one of them would stop me, look up with those big eyes, and say, “Daddy I can’t believe that I wanted to stay in Junction City. I love you.” They meant, “I have faith in you, I hope in you, I love you.” And of course, I’m a broken and fallible sign pointing to their true Father who does not fail. “Love does not fail.”

Well, lots of people go to theme parks in Florida and have one hell of a time; I mean it feels like hell.
You see Faith, Hope, and Love make the Magic Kingdom magic.
And they grow on the journey in the van.
Even now, the kingdom is at hand — it’s in the van.

But remember, for a three-year-old, after six hours in a car seat, “Get in the van” does sound just like “Pick up your cross and follow.” Peter actually did. Fleeing persecution under Emperor Nero, fleeing Rome, he had a vision of Jesus walking the other direction. He said, “Where are you going, Lord?” And Jesus answered, “To Rome to be crucified.” And at that, Peter got in the van.

“To man there remains two ways” writes A.T. Robinson. “But at some point, out on that road… each one finds… Someone, else. It is a figure, stooping beneath the weight of a cross. ‘Lord, where are you going?’ asks Everyman. And the answer comes: ‘I am going to Rome, to Moscow, to New York, to be crucified afresh in your place.’ And no man in the end can bear that encounter forever. For it is an encounter with a power than which there can be nothing greater, a meeting with omnipotent Love itself (Himself).”

Get in the Van.

Subscribe to the Podcast

All Sermons