Traveling Third Class

In a recent sermon I explained the ticketing system for stagecoaches in the old west. I am told that there were three classes of tickets—first, second, and third—although a typical stagecoach had only six seats,. These did not refer to the seat selection, but to the passenger’s responsibilities. A first class ticket entitled the holder to remain in the coach, no matter what happened. Second class meant that the passenger had to get out of the coach and walk whenever the driver had a problem—like a steep grade. And if you had a third class ticket then you had to help the driver get out of trouble. Thus, if the stagecoach was stuck in a mudhole, the first class passenger remained seated, the second class rider got out and watched, while the poor third class soul had to get down into the puddle and help push the coach. Next time you are sitting in a cramped coach seat waiting for a plane to take off be glad you do not have to get out and help push the plane down the runway.

As with most good sermon anecdotes this little story can be used to illustrate most anything. It is particularly helpful to describe the theme for our worship services for the next month—“Getting Unstuck.”

It is frustrating to feel stuck—whether in a dead-end job, stale relationship, or a stalled spiritual life. When we are stuck we often respond in ways that are not unlike the three classes of stagecoach passengers. Sometimes we remain seated in our malaise, perhaps complaining about the predicament in which we find ourselves. Other times we may move just far enough to point out to other people what they are doing wrong. But it is the third class passenger who is willing to get dirty and make things better for him/herself and others.

It can be easy to get stuck in our spiritual journey. For many of us our primary religious education happened as a child and these early notions of faith remain our only resources for understanding faith. Unfortunately, as we grow up and life becomes more complicated the answers we learned in Sunday School no longer work for us.

Other people become stuck on the path of faith by too many choices. One hits a fork in the road, and instead of moving ahead, we pitch a tent in the intersection. This may be a good spot to see a lot of traffic, but you are liable to blown away by all the spiritual options that continually drive by. And, you certainly will not move anywhere.

A healthy spiritual life keeps developing throughout life. During September I will be exploring Christian spiritual resources to help us through some of the most vexing of personal and society issues in which we may be stuck. So get ready to get out and get dirty, it is time to be unstuck.


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