1 John 3:16-24
New Member/Adherent Sunday
For as long as I can remember I have loved roads. Roads are the circulatory system of our communities and the original information highway. Without roads, there would be no villages, cities, or towns. They are the lifeblood of our connectedness, even in a cyber age. The Highways and byways, streets and footpaths of our communities and countries have not only connected us, but they have also been the stuff of legend. Perhaps you’ve heard of the famous Route 66? Or lamented being stuck in traffic on the Don Valley Parking Lot as it is sometimes called. Since moving here to KW, I’ve had to up my roundabout navigating skills! There’s even a wonderful little film called The Straight Story which tells the true story of a man named Alvin Straight who drove his lawnmower through the wheat and corn fields of Kansas and Iowa to see his brother in Wisconsin. Every road tells a story and every story about a journey, probably has a road or path in it somewhere.
Many years ago, as a student minister, I took a very memorable bus trip to Tennessee with our Music Director and youth group. We had partnered with a United Methodist congregation and our youth choir participated in their worship service as well as sang at other local venues. We drove from Toronto to Tennessee overnight by bus. It was a long trip – marked by long stretches of straight highway and later into the winding roads of the Smokey Mountains.
It wasn’t always an easy trip. One of us got bus-sick pretty regularly and some of us found it easy to lapse into self-inflicted inertia by going inward and dozing off. Sometimes we got silly and sang camp songs and hymns and a couple of us even managed to get in a profound discussion about faith and life when we thought others were sleeping. Being on the road with this lively and interesting group of young people was both taxing and exhilarating; it brought us even closer together as a group.
I’ve always loved a good road trip. If I travelled as a child, that’s how we travelled. Even with my own family road trips have been a common theme in our travel adventures. It’s one of the things I have missed dearly during this pandemic and look forward to the day of being on the open road once again. There were times on those long trips to places like Thunder Bay or Florida that I even began to feel like I was becoming one with my car!
Sometime along the way, I began to understand that roads and driving or walking on them have a sacramental aspect. A road is a visible reminder of a hidden connectedness to our self, others, the world, and God. I was traveling on a road that meant far more than the highway I was bouncing upon or the dirt road we were taking on a country back road. Something new was stirring in me, or maybe something ancient, that has been awaking in people throughout history. I began to understand what was awakening inside was a mighty sense of belonging – of being part of the long line of spiritual travelers in the world.
The Road is a metaphor for the spiritual path. Jesus speaks of it as a narrow path or broad highway. His followers even named themselves People on the Way. After the resurrection, two of his followers met Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Jesus walked and talked with them and when they arrived, he broke bread with them and then left them with awed and burning hearts.
Perhaps you remember the Scripture story of Saul of Tarsus? He was walking the road to Damascus, getting ready to persecute more Christians, when he encountered the divine and everything changed for him. He became Paul and began working with the very people he had oppressed. Amazing things can happen when we get on the road.
There are roads that are especially for those on spiritual journeys; the road from Winchester to Canterbury in England is one of these. There is Camino de Santiago that countless people walk every year. But such wanderings are also about the movement each human being needs to make in life—the journey from fear to love, or the walk of deep forgiveness, a more intimate communion, the search for greater peace, a pilgrimage toward community, self acceptance, or the profound quest for the realm of God here on earth.
And in the pandemic world we are living in – just getting outside for a walk in your neighbourhood or on a local trail is life giving. Each week, Parkminster’s Walking Group safely meets to walk together. But I sense it’s much more than that. In a way, this is an ordinary weekly walk; there’s laughing, joking, and conversing with each other along the way. In another sense, they are travelers on the way; walking with each other. These weekly walks are a sense of connection, of community, of care.
There are also roads that lead us to justice in our ongoing work around anti-racism and right relations. Roads that connect us to our Outreach partners. Roads that beckon us to follow and build relationships not just within this faith community but with our wider community as well. Roads that call us from beyond our building and into the world. As the Epistle confirms, “God’s love abides in anyone who sees a sibling in need and desires to help. Let us love in truth and action.”
And there is also something deeper that will be taking place. It sounds romantic but getting on the road is not always an easy or convenient thing to do or an always exciting way to live. To become a road traveler means to become willing to live with the mystery of what might happen inside and out as we walk along the roads of life. Becoming a traveler means there are no set maps of the heart, one simply holds on to the hand of the Great Wanderer and travels the road, somehow trusting and knowing that the long and winding road is the only road we are walking upon. Being on the journey is of primary importance and sometimes we are walking along a spiritual path rather than an asphalt road.
On Parkminster’s website you are greeted with the phrase: “You are not alone. Come share the journey.” I have always appreciated this invitation and commitment to extravagant welcome and radical hospitality.
I know it is not a biblical quote, but I want to suggest that perhaps, it is what our faith and our calling is all about. We are welcome on the journey, wherever we are and how ever we find ourselves. I believe that. I always feel proud when I hear it and when I see Parkminster practicing it. Today we celebrate with Mary and Jayden – who make commitments to their spiritual journeys and the ways they want this faith community to be connected with them.
God is saying to them and to us: Wherever you are on the journey, come and share it, you are welcome here.
Here. Doubtful and hurting. Just coming out and emerging from years of grief and separation.
Here. Bewildered by the state of the world and wondering if there can be peace amongst the pain and hurt.
Here. Full of questions, feeling free to ask them with others who are seeking, wondering and full of curiosity.
Here. Raising a family and being busier and more chaotic than you ever dreamed but still doing it in community.
Here. Confronting life and death and all that is between.
God invites us on a journey, just as God has always welcomed the traveler throughout the Human Story. God meets us on the road and is our companion on the way. Wherever we are along the road, the Great Wanderer walks with us, encouraging us, guiding us, challenging us, and always beckoning us to come on the great adventure of life.
Sometimes the road is just a road.
Sometimes a road opens the way to justice and love.
And sometimes the road is a gateway, a path, a bridge, an opening for the journey with God.
As those of us who seek, we recognize the significance of having a community to wonder, to dream, to be vulnerable and open to divine curiosity. Living the spiritual life in social isolation, disconnected from others, is a contradiction in terms. Maya Angelou (1928–2014) had it right in her poem Alone:
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
Can make it out here alone.
Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.
Friends, wherever you are on your spiritual road, you are not alone. Come share the journey. Together, there is life abundant, with its surplus of social equity, that is only possible as life together. “We have all known the long loneliness,” Dorothy Day once said, “and we have found the answer is community.” And so friends, let us walk the road together.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Rev. Heather Power