At one point in my life I entertained the fantasy of hiking the Appalachian Trail. 2200 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. And Bruce Bryson’s book A Walk in the Woods recounting his experiences hiking the Appalachian Trail only added fuel to the fire. Then, several years ago reality caught up with me and I realized my fantasy was going to remain just that…a fantasy. But, because I am a bit stubborn at times (at least that is what I have been told) rather than give up on the idea completely I readjusted my goal. I decided, rather than the Appalachian Trail, I would hike the Long Trail in Vermont. 287 miles seemed more doable and a bit more realistic than 2200 miles. So, for the last three summers I have been doing just that…hiking the Long Trail a section at a time. For the most part, as I have been hiking, the trail is pretty obvious. But, there are places where it is not. In those sections I realized I need to pay more attention to the trail markers. The 2” x 6” white blazes painted on the trees or rocks.
And, that is what I would like to think with you about this morning. As you think about your life and your faith, what are the markers you look for? What are those signposts that help you find your way when life gets complicated or challenging? What are those reminders you turn to to keep you on track and to keep you from becoming lost when you are surrounded by conflicting values or competing demands? Because faith – which has something to do with linking your life to God’s purpose; what you do to what you understand God to be about in the world in which we live – like life is a journey more than a destination. Sometimes what is asked of you and me as people of faith is pretty clear. But, more often than not the situations and circumstances in which we find ourselves are complicated and sometimes messy and often confusing.
As a Christian…
As person of faith…
How do you find your way when you walk into a tense business meeting or a into a difficult board meeting? Or, when you are grappling with what you think is a responsible and appropriate action in response to the atrocities in Syria? Or, even when you face those every day choices doing your best to differentiate between wants and needs as you make decisions about how you will spend your money?
What are the markers you look for?
What are the signposts you rely on?
Over the course of the next several months I hope to suggest several you might consider. But, here is one for today. For this first Sunday after Labor Day as summer gives way to fall. From this story about Jesus as told by the author of Luke’s Gospel.
Jesus was invited to the home of Simon, not the disciple, but one of the recognized religious leaders in the community. As the guests were about to take their place at the table for, what I am sure, was a wonderful and carefully prepared meal, a woman from the community whom the gospel describes as a “sinner” which means that for whatever reason, in addition to being a woman, she was to be avoided at all costs, barges into the house and falls crying at Jesus’ feet. You can imagine the consternation of Simon and the rest of the guests who were present. And, you can almost hear their collective gasp both because of the presence of the woman and because Jesus did not immediately draw away in horror. Sputtering, Simon tries to find his voice to express his anger and indignation, and to regain some control over the situation. At just that moment, Jesus turns to him and says, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” (You can read how the author of Luke’s Gospel tells this story in Luke 7: 36-50)
And, that is where I want to pause for a moment, because I think what Jesus said to Simon can serve as one of the markers for our lives today.
“Simon,” Jesus says.
And, all the rest of you, as well…
I have something to say to you.
I have something to say to you when you walk into that meeting.
I have something to say to you when you are putting your children to bed at night.
I have something to say to you when you are reading the newspaper or listening to the news.
I have something to say to you when you walk into this place.
I have something to say to you when you walk out of this place.
I don’t know what that something is.
What God might say to you in the moment you have right now because it is different than what God might be trying to say to me.
Is to realize God is speaking and to pay attention and to listen.
And then to keep paying attention.
And to keep listening.
I don’t know about you, but, sometimes it takes me a long time to hear what God wants to say to me. Moments when I slowly realize what I am supposed to do especially when I don’t want to do it. Moments when I realize I am to speak up when I want to be silent. Moments when I am reminded to say Please or Thank you or I’m sorry. Have you ever had a moment like that?
Saying to you I have something to say to you.
So this morning, this suggestion.
A signpost for the journey that may look something like this.
Tomorrow when you send your kids off to school or walk into work or leave your house to run errands or sit down to talk with a friend, can you pause long enough to imagine God saying:
I have something to say to you.
And, then to do your best to listen.