Walking In God’s Path

pathI went to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood last week, the movie about Mr. Rogers life. It’s a beautiful story about a beautiful human being, I remember watching it Mr. Rogers with my son. I don’t think I realized how much we must have watched it until the closing song, which I knew by heart. Most everyone can sing at least the first couple of lines from the opening.

What many of us might not realize, I certainly didn’t until a few years ago was that Mr. Rogers, was actually Rev. Rogers, a Presbyterian minister, whose ministry through his show, was fully embraced by the Presbyterian church.

The other thing that I didn’t realize while watching the show, and admittedly my memory is sketchy, because we are going back a number of years, was how gently radical he was. For instance, in the late sixties, when most community pools were segregated by colour, Mr. Rogers invited Officer Clemens to join him and cool his feet in a small plastic wading pool. When Clemmons sat down and placed his feet in the water, right next to Rogers’, the two men broke a well-known color barrier. (https://www.biography.com/news/mister-rogers-officer-clemmons-pool)

One of the lines that stuck out for me in the movie was when he said, “everything mentionable is manageable.” The reason this stood out for me was because of what has happened in the Listening Circles. For those of you who have participated, you know that the opening question is How are you feeling right now, and I ask for two positive words and a negative one. And then I ask the same thing at the end. Without fail, EVERY group has felt better and more hopeful. And I think it’s because we are mentioning our hopes… our fears… our concerns… And in giving voice to them, they are manageable. Our fears lose their power and our hopes gain prominence.

Which led me to ask some of the questions I sent out in my Thursday Thoughts:
• How do we walk with hopeful joy in this world?
• What do we do to prepare ourselves for the birth of something new?
• What do we focus on?

Let’s hold those questions as we listen to our first reading, it’s from the prophet Isaiah and the message is hope filled.

The day of justice and of peace will dawn. But the nation was far from that in Isaiah’s day, sounding very modern with their greed, their love of power, their conniving and their idolatry. In the context of his hope of the Messiah, Isaiah speaks powerfully on God’s behalf. These are the words of a spiritual revolution! Let’s listen to the prophet’s words in Isaiah 2: 1-5 (Intros to Scripture by Rev. Stew Clarke and Rev. Catherine MacDonald)

This is what Isaiah, Amoz’s son, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 In the days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
will be the highest of the mountains.
It will be lifted above the hills;
peoples will stream to it.
3 Many nations will go and say,
“Come, let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain,
to the house of Jacob’s God
so that he may teach us his ways
and we may walk in God’s paths.”
Instruction will come from Zion;
the Lord’s word from Jerusalem.
4 God will judge between the nations,
and settle disputes of mighty nations.
Then they will beat their swords into iron plows
and their spears into pruning tools.
Nation will not take up sword against nation;
they will no longer learn how to make war.
5 Come, house of Jacob,
let’s walk by the Lord’s light.

Then they will beat their swords into iron plows
and their spears into pruning tools.
Nation will not take up sword against nation;
they will no longer learn how to make war.
Come, house of Jacob,
let’s walk by the Lord’s light.

We no longer have swords and spears, but what are the ‘weapons’ we might use that go against hope-filled joyful living?
• Focusing on the negative?
• Consuming too much sensational media?

Hope-filled joyful living is about more than simply being positive; in fact, it’s facing reality and finding hopeful joy in it anyway. Hope-filled joyful living is a way of being in the world. Hope-filled joyful living is about focusing on what can be done, right here, right now. It might be something small… it might be something big… it’s walking in God’s path. And God’s path is full of hope and joy even in the midst of trouble! We can count on that and we can expect that.

Our second reading is from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. He writes in a spirit of expectation, not of the Messiah as in Isaiah’s vision, certainly not of Christmas as in our advertising, but of the new day of Christ’s return and Christ’s presence. (Intros to Scripture written by Rev. Stew Clarke and Rev. Catherine MacDonald)

Let’s listen to the passage from Romans 13, it’s from The Message translation:

But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing!
God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ and be up and about!

Are we ready? Are we clothing ourselves with Christ? Are we absorbed and exhausted in taking care of day-by-day obligations that we lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God? As we wait with hopeful joy what do we hope will be born this year?

The only thing that has every helped me is making sure I spend time nurturing my spirit.
That might be through words, through photographs, through conversations with others.
It may be solitary, it may be with others. Others who are also seeking to walk God’s path. Which doesn’t mean that are paths are identical. But keeping close to God is the only way to sustain ourselves for walking God’s path. And we can walk it with hopeful joy.

I am going to close with this poem from Madeleine L’Engle, it’s called First Coming:

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.

He did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy he came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Let us walk this joyful path with faith, with love and with community, amen.

© Rev. Catherine MacDonald 2019

Isaiah 2: 1-5 (CEB)
Romans 13: 11-14 (The Message)
December 1, 2019 – Advent 1
Stairs Memorial United Church

© Rev. Catherine MacDonald 2019

 

 

 

 

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