“The Road Less Traveled”
Sermon August 26, 2018
The Rev. Kathy Guin
Today, we hear in Ephesians to “Pray in the Spirit at all times.” This phrase reminded me of our families’ recent summer travels. I had read about this out of the way labyrinth that was created on the crags of rocky shoreline. Right at the water’s edge, you find this hidden prayer path where I prayed for those who God had put on my heart.
My son and I followed this ancient prayer practice after sunset and then had to find our way through the dim light. The jagged rock formations are called “Dragons’ teeth” and to find this flat large space where this labyrinth was created is wonderous find. This discovery made me think of the path that we follow and a book I read many years ago.
It is one of the best- selling books over the past 30 years - Scott Peck’s “The Road Less Traveled.” I remember reading this book forever ago and was struck initially by the title. But the first sentence pulled me in completely: “Life is difficult.” This simple sentence strikes a deep chord within our hearts, no matter our age or circumstances.
So how do we learn to meet the challenges of life? Well today, we see several important signposts for the journey – I read a story this week of an old pastor speaking sadly about a someone who had lost their way. He said, “Poor thing, when it was time for him to go to the well for water, he had no bucket.”
The pastor was pointing out our need to prepare ourselves for wherever we are now and whatever we might face – One image is the drawing water - we need to have our bucket ready to be filled – refreshing blessings! Another image of being prepared for what we may face in life is the armor of God. This image of the “spiritual armor” is not something that many of speak often in our daily lives.
If this is the case, then we may not be fully aware of the dynamics of our spiritual life - what surrounds on the path. The scriptures speak of spiritual forces that surround us, are for both good and evil. Certainly Jesus and Saint Paul presumed that the force is with us and against us. And so we find the image of an early Roman Soldier, whose presence was threatening the early Christians. We read about our need for a belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, a shield and helmet, secure shoes.
As we focus on this image, Br Curtis of SSJE turns to St. Ignatius of Loyola as a guide for looking at this passage. The founder of the Jesuits, who in his earlier life was a soldier - a 16th century armor-bearing knight. For one, Ignatius says that the enemy of our soul is like a calculating general sizing up his opponent. So there are two questions, where are we spiritually vulnerable? Where are we?
If we’re honest we will realize that we have many different ways to avoid facing what’s in our lives. We can be very creative in rationalizing things. So we need to beware of how we’re reacting in situations -what are our tendencies – where do we need to be proactive – to keep our hearts and minds open to God as we look at where we need God, we need to keep an eye on our different tendencies –
If we are prone to harbor resentment, then we will find residual anger, and it will eat us up. If we are prone to losing our gratitude, then we will find disappointment to be our guide, and we will miss the signs of grace - God – the giver – things wonderful, beautiful, sustaining, strengthening… If we are prone to lose sight of this, then we are prone to focus on ourselves – what we want and we become the center of things.
But here’s the good news, when we know our own way of spiritual vulnerability – we know where we are. Then we know the how, when and where we need help – we need to pray – we need to turn to Christ. We need the Armor of God. Because it’s in those tight hard places, where we come to know God.
Now here’s some directions for the road that’s less traveled – these places are where God breaks through to us. And it’s this where we meet God again and again – those places where we need God the most. We find Christ wherever we need him – where there is fear, loss, grief, suffering, - where there is need for healing and renewal -this is where we find God again and again. Then we are more able to face any situation with hope and courage – through what God does!
Another prayer of protection reminding us that wherever we go we are surrounded by God’s circle of love. Comes from the St Patrick’s breastplate that you will find in the back of your bulletin. Prayers affirming that Christ is above, beneath, to the right and left, behind and before, and in all that we meet. As we see in this passage, prayer is central to our lives – we pray in the Spirit - who brings us together.
This means we also need a community to uphold us in prayerful support We need a Cloud of Witnesses, a community of Love, to sustain us in life’s challenges. Knowing change is part of life – we just need to put on own spiritual armor so that we’re prepared to do the work God has given us to To not just endure but to be strengthened by prayers of wisdom and grace – to see clearly the path before us This is the Road We Travel, the way of Christ!