You are not alone. Come share the journey.

May 29 – Along the Road

Sunday School Activities

Acts 16:9-15

Do you have a favourite book of all time?  Do you have a beloved book that you loved sharing with your children or grandchildren? I hope some of you will share your favourites with me after the service today.

I have always loved to read. In fact, as a child, the introvert in me loved nothing more than to delve into the pages of a good story and get transported into the lives of the characters. The Ramona Quimby series stands out for me. And I did love those “Choose Your Adventure” books as a child. I figure my love of books started with my parents who were also avid readers. It’s probably why my undergraduate degree was in English literature.

And it was during that time that I really fell in love with poetry and poets like WH Auden, Seamus Heaney, E.E. Cummings, Maya Angelou, and of course modern poets now like Amanda Gorman.

But one poem that has always stayed with me – and I’ve even used elements of it in sermons before is Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” that ends with the well-known words: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

In fact, I’ve often thought of that poem and those very lines as I’ve made decisions that have shaped my life. 

Sometimes we need to embark on the road not taken. The one less traveled by – and indeed, it can make all the difference.

As people of faith, as seekers, we often take the road less traveled, don’t we? The one that calls us to do engaging but often challenging work.  Work that calls us to acknowledge the racism that exists not only in society but in the church as well. Work that calls us to engage and live in right relation with our Indigenous siblings. Work that demands we pay attention to climate injustice, to violence that is happening close to home and around the world. Work that sometimes surprises us with what we learn – about the work itself – but about ourselves and each other.

And perhaps one of the greatest gifts of all of this is that we do not do this work alone. We do it together. In community. With the holy. It’s quite remarkable really. We don’t always recognize when God is doing something meaningful in our lives and how it will affect the people we meet along the road.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

Thinking about it with this lens, the words of that poem are more than some motivational framework. I think they encapsulate a small piece of a larger story about the work of the Spirit in our lives.

Let’s hear the first two verses of this morning’s passage from the book of Acts again:

Then one night Paul had a vision. A Macedonian stood before him and said, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After this vision, we* immediately made efforts to get across to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to bring them the Good News.  (Acts 16:9-10)

It is imperative for me to point out that Paul did not originally intend to go to Macedonia. At this point in his ministry, Paul was traveling with Timothy and Silas; they planned to journey to the northern province of Asia Minor. But someone came to them in a vision and asked them to move in a different direction.

And they followed this voice and ended up in Macedonia.

You never know when God is doing something meaningful in your life and how it will affect the people you meet along the road.

We are at the end of the Easter season in the church. In the Christian year – the one that starts at the beginning of Advent, at the very end of November or beginning of December – Easter is a season that lasts for several weeks after the triumph of Easter Sunday. 

This Easter season reminds us that the Christian Church did not just experience the resurrection once on that first Easter morning. The Church has experienced – and continues to experience – the resurrection every single day. We are Easter People; we live in a post-resurrection world, one where we know how the story of Jesus on the cross ends. And as Easter People we not only celebrate that story, but we also celebrate God’s continuing presence in our lives today.

Our story from Acts is about three people traveling to a new and unplanned place to share the Gospel and meeting Lydia and her family. “Lydia’s faith becomes immediately active: she is baptized along with her whole household, and she opens her home. Social and cultural barriers crumble, and this corner of the empire is beginning to be changed by God’s grace. The author says that Lydia extended an invitation Paul and his companions to stay with her and accept her hospitality. There is only one other place in the New Testament where this same translation is used: in Emmaus on Easter evening, as the two traveling disciples urged the risen Jesus to stay with them that night (Luke 24:29). Perhaps the verbal echo is not accidental; by lives transformed and opened up in faithful discipleship, the community of the risen Christ continues to extend into the world. Here at the end of the Easter season, we continue to experience and to live out that community, extending an invitation to the world to hear, and see, and know the grace and love of God in the risen Christ.” (from workingpreacher.com

But it also reminds us that God is as much a part of our stories as we are. God pushes us in unexpected ways to unexpected places to share our stories and build community. A community that flourishes here in this place, yes, but also calls us outside these walls to meet and engage with others where they are at.

Paul planned to travel to the northern province of Asia Minor to share the Gospel; but God nudged him in another direction. And something pretty spectacular happened.

Have you felt the nudge of the Spirit? One perhaps inviting you to move in another, in a different direction.  How does this community of Parkminster United respond to these spiritual nudges? As we rejoice with hope in resuming more regular routines and ways of being together, I believe in my heart that something truly spectacular is going to happen here in this community.

The resurrection was a monumental moment that changed history and acted as a catalyst for a new religious tradition.

But the resurrection did not end there. It has continued within the lives of Christians over the past 2,000+ years and it continues within our lives today. It continues when we come together for worship. When we celebrate and welcome someone into the community through baptism just as we did today with Teresa and her family. It continues when we reach out and serve our community; when we care for one another; when we speak the truth with love.  God works in the most mysterious of ways and places, moving us in new and different directions, yet continues to unite us as the Body of Christ along the way.

I read something this week that I thought was worth sharing. Kathryn Matthews Huey, author of a preaching resource called “Sermon Seeds” reflected on this passage from Acts and said the following:

The journey of Paul and companions into new and unexpected places, in ministry with new and most unexpected people (women! Gentiles!), is the story not only of the early church but of the church throughout the ages. As we embark on God’s mission in our day and in our own setting as well as around the world, we are more, together, than simply the sum of our parts: we are the Body of Christ, at work, in the world that God loves. {Sermon Seeds Year C: Inclusive Reflections for Preaching from the United Church of Christ, by Kathryn Matthews Huey, page 133}

I passed by a sign the other day that read, “Your story matters.” It’s true. Your story does matter. Our stories matter together. The way God is working in our lives matters – it matters here at Parkminster, and it matters within the faith story.

In a minute we will join together in singing the hymn, “We Shall Go Out with Hope of Resurrection.” The words of this hymn reminds us to celebrate the resurrection every single day and listen to God’s still speaking voice nudging us along our journeys.

Because you never know when God is doing something meaningful in your life and how it will affect the people you meet along the road. 

May God continue to bless and do great things in the life and work of Parkminster.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Rev. Heather Power