Sermon: Holy Adventure

Luke 3:1-6

a poem by the Reverend Timothy Haut.

Sun, rise on this day
like a flower unfolding
to loveliness, or to surprise.
Let there be a twist
in the old path,
where a new view may
startle me with joy.
Help the child in me
skip with expectation,
ready for an adventure
of the heart.
Make me glad
to be really alive,
to embrace this wonder
that will never come again.

Rev. Haut writes,
make us ready
for an adventure
of the heart.

Make us ready,
O God,
for your holy adventure,
for the adventure of finding you.

This beckoning
reminds of today’s Scripture.
The Gospel of Luke reads:
“Make ready the way of our God,
clear a straight path …
and all humankind will see the salvation of God.”

Make ready the way. Clear a path.

In the chaos life,
how do we clear a way forward?
How do we prepare a route to follow?

I ask because,
sometimes I get lost.
In the maze
of streets and life choices
that surround us,
how do we decide:
what to do,
where to go,
how to spend our time?
How do we discern what path to choose?

Make us ready,
O Holy One,
for an adventure of the heart.

In the book In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World,
Paudrig O Tuama
writes of his own experiences becoming lost.
O Tuama grew up in the Irish countryside,
learning to linger in the fields
and enjoy long walks.
Still, even on those walks,
he longed to be in the city;
he wanted to meet the worlds
that the country could not contain.
One day,
O Tuama finds himself in: New York City.
He thinks, O maybe I will become a priest there.
It takes ten minutes in New York City
for those plans to change,
but still he loves the city.
What would he do now?
He walks the city.
He walks and walks until he gets lost,
and when he is totally lost,
he goes down in the subway
and takes the train,
and gets even more lost.
O Tuama finds his way to
the subway station
underneath Grand Central Station.
He has nowhere to be and hours to waste
and he can’t make his mind about what to do –
with the day or his life.
Both are open; both are intimidating.
Where to start? What to do?
How do we make our lives ready for holy adventure?

From the side of the station,
O Tuama hears music.
He goes over to investigate.
There is a woman in a dress,
wearing fancy shoes, a coat and a small hat.
Her face is clear and bright
and she is singing along to recorded music.
It must have been a well-known church song
because others around her joined in on the chorus,
which repeated ‘Alleluia’ over and over again
like a jazzy psalm.

Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

O Tuama doesn’t feel like singing,
but can’t bring himself to leave.
The singer croons a story from the Gospel of John
about a woman
who is at a well
during the hottest time of the day
and meets Jesus.
It’s a story that O Tuama knows and loves,
because both the characters are so rich and lively.
Jesus asks for water and the woman replies,
you shouldn’t be speaking to me.
Jesus replies, you should ask me for the water of life.
Astounded, the woman replies
but you have no bucket for your water.
They speak anyway,
and she discovers herself in the story
of a stranger.
There O Tuama is, in the belly of the city,
listening to a stranger
sing a story that he loves
on a day when it feels like
everything is dying.
He is the only white boy,
surrounded by black women twice his age,
singing, Alleluia over and over again:
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
Tears came down his face as he thinks:
Maybe everything is not lost.

Maybe everything is not lost.

Maybe we can find our way home from here.

The Gospel of Luke reads:
“A herald’s voice in the desert,
crying, ‘Make ready the way of our God;
clear a straight path.”

Hark! A herald’s voice cries out even in the desert,
even in the New York subway:
Make ready the way.
Clear the path.
Prepare the route.

These instructions are a bit daunting to me.
After all,
getting ready taking so much work.
The thought of preparing our homes for the holidays,
or our lives for Christ’s birth, can feel overwhelming.
After all,
will we ever be prepared enough?
Ready enough? Clear enough?

It strikes me that this invitation to prepare the way
is paired with the story of
John going through the wilderness,
proclaiming repentance and forgiveness.

What does it mean to repent?

Repentance can be defined as
turning around, or
a radical change of heart or mind, or
a transformation of our entire way of thinking.

John invites all who he encounters
to ready their lives by repenting.
How do we repent? How do we transform our lives?

I considered that question recently
as someone asked me,
“How do you spell transformation?”
“Is it with a big ‘T’ or a little ‘t’?”
In other words,
does it come in one big sweep
or in many little moments?
What do you think?
How have you spelled transformation in your own life?

As I thought about it,
I realized that,
while I long for grand and glorious moments
of clarity and change,
in reality,
transformation comes most often in the small moments.
It comes in moments
when I check in on a friend,
forgive an annoying stranger,
remember to pray,
practice being still if only for a moment,
say I am sorry and try again,
or savor something beautiful.

The person’s question
reminded me that
repentance is an invitation to start somewhere.
We can’t be attentive to every room of our life
that needs cleaning right now,
but we can start somewhere;
we can find a place to begin.

What intention would you like to set this Advent?

Here are some options to consider.
You could set an intention around growing through:
a daily prayer practice or
dedicated times of rest and reflection or
a commitment to learning and studying.

You could set an intention around the use of resources
in light of the Gospel’s call to be a healing presence
daily gratitude,
proper maintenance of all you have, or
thoughtful stewardship of your time, body, mind and soul.

You could set an intention around loving your neighbor
acts of service,
building trusting, respectful relationships, or
gathering regularly with a faith community.

Where would you like to grow?

It can be simple.
Take proper maintenance of all we have.
in all my comings and goings,
I accumulate big piles of things on
my dining room table.
The thought of sorting through it feels overwhelming,
so I don’t want to start.
Then one day, I think,
maybe instead of feeling like I have to do it all once,
I will set aside time each day to work on it,
as a spiritual practice,
as a way for caring for my surroundings.
Each day for twenty minutes,
I sort through papers and mail,
shelf books, file documents,
chuck unneeded items.
until at last the way had been cleared
in my house and life
for something new to happen.

Like hearing the Alleluias in the subway,
everything is not lost.

Like the words we sing each Sunday:
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

The words remind me:
We can find our way home from here,
and, even when that doesn’t feel true,
there is grace.

One time, it is true,
I didn’t know if I would find my way home;
I was that lost.

My partner Matthew and I
traveled to the Swiss Alps
to backpack on a long-distance trail
known as the Via Alpina,
that ran through the foothills
of the mountains.

When we arrive in the Alps,
we buy a map
so that we would be able to navigate our way
through woods and city roads alike

2015-09-11 01.38.07Yet, forty minutes into our trek,
while we are still in town,
we lose the trail.
We cannot find any more signs that say:
Via Alpina.
We find ourselves at a crossroads:
a road goes one way
and a sidewalk goes up a hill the other,
with a sign saying: Wanderweg.

We search our map
for the town of Wanderweg,
but cannot find it.
We are lost in a foreign country.
Not sure what else to do,
we follow the sign for Wanderweg to
a small collection of houses.
Is this Wanderweg?
No, the sign tells us it is further up.
We keep walking,
eventually discovering a trail sign
and rejoining our route.
As we hike,
we continued to see the sign for Wanderweg
over and over again.
How many towns of Wanderweg are there,
we wonder.
we learn ‘wander’ means hiking
and ‘weg’ means way.
The whole time we had been lost;
there were signs right in front of us
saying: hike this way.

We are not as lost as we think we are.
We can find our way home from here.

Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

Perhaps our home isn’t ready for the holidays.
Yet here in the messiness,
we are making something ready
more glorious than the most fancy
Christmas feast,
and that is the holy adventure of the heart.


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