The title for this message comes from my initial thoughts after reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesians encouraging them to get out and walk on the road that God has called. For most people this is and can be a very daunting task; the road that God calls for you to walk may not be the road that you want to walk. The road that God calls for you to walk may not a smooth paved road but one filled with unknown dangers. And it is entirely possible that you will not even know the destination that lies at the end of the road that you will walk.
As we gather tonight, the Mars rover, “Curiosity”, is preparing to land on Mars. It is a special landing because there is a camera on board the rover and we should get video of the actual landing. There is danger in this because we are not controlling the landing, relying on computers to accurately guide the rover to a landing somewhere on Mars. There is a time lag of some 14 minutes so we are not able to immediately make changes in the path of descent. The only other alternative would be to have send humans on this flight but we have sort of decided that no human will go beyond the orbit of the moon for some time to come.
Our history of sending spacecraft to Mars is a checkered one to say the least. In the history of space exploration, our ability to successfully land a spacecraft on Mars has proven to not be very good. We have lost more spacecrafts than we have landed, so each attempt at landing is risky at best. And many times we don’t know why the landing failed; though I sometimes wonder if those who might live on Mars don’t want us bothering them.
I am looking forward to watching the video of the landing when I get back home, on the assumption that “Curiosity” landed safely and we are able to see videos of the landing. But I truly fear that if this landing is a failure, there will be cries from many that we need to stop wasting our money on such foolish projects. There are some who have voiced their opinion that, no matter whether the landing is successful or not, it is a waste of money.
I cannot help but wonder why, when the subject of government waste arises, it is always the social and scientific programs that are cut and not the military and defense expenditures. If we do not explore other worlds, if we do not stretch our imagination, it will be very difficult to walk a path other than one that only leads to death and destruction.
To say that you are not the least bit interested in what lies around the corner and down the road a bit is to say that you wish to go nowhere. Perhaps you are happy with the status quo but look around and tell me if what you see when you leave this place is what you want for the years to come.
Still, we do not have to leave home and travel to another planet to walk another path. It is quite easy to do so right here, for all we have to do is stretch our minds and open our imagination. It is common to quote Proverbs 29: 18 (without vision, the people perish) in times like these but perhaps it would be better if we though of Jeremiah 6: 16 instead.
Go stand at the crossroads and look around. Ask for directions to the old road, the tried-and-true road. Then take it. Discover the right route for your souls. But the people said, “nothing doing. We aren’t going that way.”
Now, this is one of those readings where you have to know something about what was going on before interpreting the passage. The people of Israel had once again veered from the path of God and Jeremiah was warning them that trouble lied in the direction they were headed. God’s message was to return to the true path, the correct path, the path towards God. And the people would not have it. It was too much work to follow God. And later on God will say through Jeremiah that the people of Israel have nothing but contempt for God’s teaching. And contempt for teaching, for me at least, is the sign of a closed mind and a lack of vision.
The people came to Jesus seeking food and that is what He offered them but it was not the food that they wanted. They were unwilling to see beyond the loaves of bread and fishes that fed the multitudes and see the Bread of Life that was being offered to them. Oh, some will begin to understand, others will know later on but too many of those who followed Jesus that day didn’t want to veer from the path that they were walking.
Time and time again, Jesus offered a new path and yet the people wanted to stay on the same one. We read over and over again in the Gospels of how the people came in multitudes at the beginning but dropped out as they became aware of what was being asked of them.
But it is possible to see the new path. In the Old Testament reading for today, David mourns the loss of his child, the result of a rather ill-conceived union with Bathsheba. Because of his adultery and his lack of attention to his own duties, God has told him that this child would die. And David sought mercy from God, hoping against hope that God would save the child.
And when the child had died, David began his life again but this time the path he walked was a little different. He understood what had transpired and though the scriptures don’t necessarily say so, he decided to walk another path, one that would lead to the birth of Solomon
When John wrote his Gospel two thousand years ago because he thought that it was important for others to know what Jesus said. I would think that he was aware of what Paul was doing and his travels, travails, and punishment. So John wrote his Gospel in part to support the work of Paul.
But John didn’t write those words for Paul; he wrote them for those who would encounter Christ later. He wrote them so that we would know that, no matter what might happen when we walk with Christ, there would be provisions to support our efforts.
Just as we begin a new exploration of the planet Mars and hopefully venture into unknown parts of the solar system, so too do we have the opportunity for new ministries, new ways of making the Gospel message more than just words.
To change the world requires that we change the path that we walk, to walk with God and not away from Him. To walk this path, to change the direction of one’s life, means accepting Christ. And then, having accepted Christ, allowing one’s heart and mind to be opened so that the Holy Spirit can empower you. We have been given the Bread of Life so that we can walk this path. Let us rejoice in that and proceed.