“Do You Have a Third Class Ticket?
There wasn’t much glamor associated with stagecoach travel in the Old West. The
roads were dusty, miserable, and subject to radical changes of elevation. The food
was lousy. The weather inside the coach was pretty much the same as the weather
outside. The pre-shock absorber era did not allow for much sleep. There was
always the potential danger of an encounter with hostile native Americans or outlaws.
At least those riding in a nine-passenger Concord stagecoach could exercise one
option when it came to privilege and comfort. According to historian Roger M.
Dillingham, a number of travel companies offered three classes of tickets.
If you paid top dollar for a first class ticket, you were entitled to sit. No matter
what happened, no one could force you to leave your seat. If the stagecoach got
stuck in the mud or had trouble making it up a steep hill, or even from time to
time-perhaps to walk when a wheel fell off, you remained in your seat because you
had a first class ticket.
Second-class ticket holders, on the other hand were required to vacate their seats
and walk alongside the coach when it needed to negotiate a stretch of sand or a
shallow stream, or when the horses needed a break. If repairs were necessary, a
second-classer was free to stand to the side and watch while others did the work.
A third-class ticket entitled you, in sports parlance, to one of the cheap seats. You
got to sit alright-right up until there was a problem. Third-classers then had to
hop off the coach, roll up their sleeves, and help push. Or lift. Or help move the
fallen tree or loose rocks that were blocking the road. And you had to do it without
Over the years, people have entertained some funny ideas about what it means to
follow Jesus. One of them is that Christianity is like being granted a first-class
ticket through life. Because of God’s grace, we get to sit and watch and enjoy the
view. When problems arise-well, “we have people to take care of such things.”
Jesus of course would dismiss that out of hand. For the Son of Man did not come to
be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45) There
are no entitlements in the company of those who follow the Messiah. We all hold
third-class tickets. That’s because our Master spent his life knee-deep in the
problems of the Least, the Last and the Lost. He calls us to do the same.
At present American churches aren’t renowned for cultivating a spirit of
servanthood. We still have miles to go on our trip through the Wild West of the
21st century. It’s not too late to make up your mind to be a working
passenger. When we are able here at Westminster Village we need to roll up our
sleeves and help push.
Ron Naylor, Chaplain