An Interrupted Journey--A Black Man's Journey

Rev. Paul M. Graves | 4/19/2012, 4:15 p.m.

As I mentioned last week, I was preparing for my Easter Sunday morning sermon when I was drawn to the passage in the Gospel of Mark 15:21 which states that Simon, a man of color, was transformed from being a spectator to a game-changer. It is clear that Simon was a game-changer in the most important game ever played, but what is not so clear is the significance of the fact that Simon is described as "passing by" an event that would change his life and the lives of countless millions.

To be found in the process of passing by suggests Simon had no intentions of stopping or becoming a part of the events that were taking place that day. Simon was busy being about his own business. Whatever was going on between the Jews and the Romans on that day outside the walls of Jerusalem had nothing to do with him. Simon was occupied with the affairs of his life and what was happening to "the guy with the cross" was not his concern. Simon was just passing by.

Interruptions are seldom appreciated and most certainly not appreciated when they take us away from our own plans and thrusts us into circumstances that are beyond our control. Interruptions can only happen when our actions are hindered or delayed by unintended events. Simon suffered an interruption when his plans were put on the back burner by the providential will of God. Simon was no longer passing by--he was now involved. He, nor we, will ever know what might have happened if Simon had been allowed to pass by and not get involved, because once we get involved, things will never be the same.

As a community, we African-Americans have been accused of not getting involved with issues that are considered outside of our community interest. We "pass" on issues that don't seem to suit our interest at the time. When there does not appear to be a compelling issue of ours we, like Simon, will try to pass by or bypass events that are shaping our future.

I found it interesting that God would not let Simon pass by this most important event and without any consultation or preparation thrust him right into the middle of this great unfolding event. Had God not interrupted Simon's plans, he would have missed out on his very reason for being born.

We, as a community, have suffered many interruptions and what can be defined as "setbacks" in our efforts to achieve our goals. Could God be trying to tell us something about our goals as a community? As important as our plans and goals may appear to be to us, could they be blocking us from seeing the bigger issues going on around us?

Simon's interruption turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It allowed him an opportunity to get involved with an event that was bigger than anything anyone could have imagined. I'm sure at the time it didn't look that marvelous an opportunity, being picked out or picked on to carry someone else's cross could not have been an attractive proposition. At the time, I am sure when Simon compared what he had planned to do that day with what he was being made to do, he was in a losing situation. The text is mute on any reaction that Simon might have given to being placed in this situation, so we are left to guess what that might have been.

As with Simon, so with us, we are sometimes compelled by circumstances beyond our control to move in new directions we would never have gone. The reward that would come to Simon and all of mankind for what Simon did that day would be revealed in the days to come, but what was important that day was that Simon accepted the interruption--the call to serve--and he finished what he was called to do.

Sometimes we need to be compelled to do the work of the "greater good."

Rev. Paul M. Graves has served as the Chief Diversity Officer for Delta Air Lines and Schering Plough Corporation (MERCK). He currently serves as pastor at Clear-Way Missionary Baptist Church in Newark, NJ.