There may be "No Parking" on the street where you live or on the street of someone you will visit. You will be seeing "No Parking" signs in places where you did not see them before. I want to pursue this idea of "No Parking." Go from the literal meaning of not parking your car in certain places to the figurative sense of not remaining at some experience in life where you interrupt the flow of life and stay there.
"One of the most persistent warnings in traffic, and in life, is the warning of the danger of parking, of resting, of settling down," said Lutheran pastor Wallace Fisher. Life is a road, a thoroughfare. We are meant to keep moving, for life goes on. In the Name of the Lord who said, "I am the Way," today, we will explore this fact that "Life Isn't a Parking Lot."
Some people park by their setbacks. After one failure or rejection, such people say, "What's the use?" Other people have had their setbacks, too, but they didn't park by them. Woody Allen of Hollywood fame flunked his course in motion picture production at New York University. He failed it again at the City College of New York. Malcolm Forbes became editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine, one of the world's largest business publications. It's a good thing for him that he didn't park by his first setback-the failure to make the staff of The Princetonian--the school newspaper at Princeton University. You didn't learn to walk, or hit a baseball, or swim without having setbacks.
Consider the life of a certain man. In 16, his family was forced out of their home. He had to work to support them as a young boy. In 32 he ran for State Legislature. He lost the election, then his job. In 33 he borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business and by the end of the year he was bankrupt. He spent the next seventeen years of his life paying off the debt. In 35 he became engaged to be married, but his sweetheart died. His heart was broken and he never got over it. In 36 he had a nervous breakdown and was in bed for six months. In 38 he sought to become Speaker of the State Legislature and was defeated. In 40 he sought to become an Elector and he was defeated. In 43 he ran for Congress and lost. In 54 he ran for the Senate of the United States; he lost. In 56 he sought the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party's national convention and he got less than 100 votes. In 1860 he was finally elected President of the United States. Abraham Lincoln didn't park by his setbacks.
Some people park by their successes. . . . After a successful event, we're tempted to park and to bask in the glow of achievement. We say to ourselves, "I've got it made. I'll coast for a while." The trouble is that coasting is always downhill!
Some people park by their sorrows. After Jesus of Nazareth died and reappeared, a messenger said to grieving women, "Now, go and tell his disciples, and especially Peter [who had denied him] that he will go ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there" (Mark 16:7, CEV).
"If I should die and leave you here awhile, Be not like others, sore undone, who keep Long vigil by the silent dust and weep. For my sake, turn again to life and smile, Nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do That which will comfort other souls than thine; Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine, And I, perchance, may therein comfort you."
There is no need to "park" oneself beside the silent dust and weep. Those whom we have loved are not in the cemetery. The graves hold only the earthly envelopes in which their personalities dwelt. If we see life as Jesus did, then we do pass through the valley of the shadow of death. We don't park there. Life isn't a parking lot.
I see this lesson in the story of Jesus' transfiguration (Mark 9:2-9). Jesus took his close friends, John, James, and Peter with him to a mountain. Mark says, "he was transfigured." Under this English word is the word used in the Greek New Testament-"metamorphosis." It means a change of form, of appearance, of nature. A tadpole undergoes a metamorphosis and becomes a frog. A caterpillar goes through a metamorphosis and becomes a butterfly. On the mountainside, Jesus underwent a change. His friends saw him in a new light. The Divinity within Jesus shone out through the vesture of his flesh and his clothing became glistening.
Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus of Nazareth. These men lived centuries before Jesus' lifetime. We would say they were dead. People don't die; bodies do. The curtain of physical death is so thin! What a revelation of the nearness of the Unseen World!
"Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us build three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah" (Mark 9:5). Peter wanted to park by that spiritual experience and stay there. In effect, however, Jesus says to him, "No Parking!" Our spiritual moments are not the goal of our religious life; they are the gateway to fuller, richer moments with God.
Remember, life isn't a parking lot. No parking at your setbacks, your successes, your sorrows, or your spiritual moments.
The Rev Edward Chinn, D.Min.
Rector, All Saints' Church
9601 Frankford Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19114 USA