What’s in Your Backpack?

Here is a preview of Sunday’s Sermon (Aug 1, 2010), Luke 12:13-21.

I’ve taken part in a lot of funerals this year.  It gives you a perspective on priorities in life.

When my daughter and I both graduated (long story), we celebrated by going backpacking on the Appalachian Trail.  I learned a lot about life from that trip.  The first lesson was, “No Turning Back.”

Mr. Jewell Church was the proprietor who agreed to take us from our destination to the drop-off point about thirty miles south of where we left our car.  We put our backpacks in the back of his pickup truck and took a scenic and winding ride through the hills of North Carolina.  After a half-hour or so or enjoying his company, he dropped us off at the bottom of a steep and long hill.  As we were strapping on our backpacks, we watched him quickly drive away.  We looked back at his disappearing tailgate and up at the steep climb ahead and realized–this is for real.  There is no turning back now.

Later I reflected on what we carried in our backpacks.  First the necessary items for survival: a three day’s supply of food, our tents and sleeping bags, a few basic survival utensils, a water purifier and bags to carry water in after we found it and filtered it.  You don’t want to drink in some nasty parasite a three days’ journey from civilization.

Next were the necessary tools for the mission, to accomplish what we wanted to accomplish on the journey.  Both of us brought cameras and journals.  What we wanted to accomplish was the experience, but we also wanted to preserve the memory.  I crafted a walking stick along the way, using my Swiss army knife, and still have it as a souvenir.

The third category was small: whatever luxuries we wanted–as long as we were willing to carry them on our backs.   Not knowing any better, we packed one of my wife’s prize quilts.  We brought it back unharmed, but realized it was heavier and bulkier than we needed.  But my daughter enjoyed it.  We also brought some canned chicken breast fillets.  Again, it was more weight than was necessary, but a pleasant relief from trail mix, granola, and beef jerky.

I have remembered that ever since.  Some possessions are necessary, and some luxuries make life more enjoyable–but we do carry them on our backs.  Life’s journey is easier when we keep it simple.

There is another fact about possessions and wealth, according to Jesus’ parable.  We will have to give account for them.

God will hold us accountable for how we acquired our wealth and possessions, what we sacrificed to get them, who we hurt, helped, or neglected along the way, and what our attachment to them shows about our priorities.

We are more than material creatures.  While we can’t avoid living in this life and dealing with material things, we need to keep an eternal perspective.