Robert Frost wrote this poem:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
This poem, the Road Less Traveled, is on my mind much of late, especially given that I am offered, and do accept another call. With this major transition in mind, and this poem in mind, I ponder those 1st century events out there on the Damascus Road.
And, I ponder all of you, with your journeys of college, retirement, travel, health, surgery, relationship, and a host of celebration journeys, that we’ve shared together on faith’s less traveled road. Haven’t we traveled so many journeys together? And, haven’t we all such unique journeys, especially those which have brought us to faith in Jesus?
No matter how God calls us to faith, isn’t the important part, not so much how God calls us, but that God calls us? Isn’t it more important that we’re on the journey, less important how we’ve gotten on the journey, or where we are on the journey? A great gift of this journey is that we do not go it alone, that we journey with a family of sisters and brothers in Jesus, where we experience, love, life, hope, challenge, pain, struggle, peace, and rest.
For Saul, the journey on faith’s less traveled road, is where persecution stops in its tracks, where Saul makes peace with people who believe differently than the way he believed. Saul’s conversion has nothing to do with believing in some new god but believing that Jesus is Messiah and that those who believe this way are totally fine to do so. Isn’t it interesting that once converted, Saul turned Paul, never journeys off to persecute the Jews? Instead, Paul answers a call to explore a new life, a call that expands his view of community.
And, in reality, this is now what God asks of the Bryants and Zion. God invites us now to take our separate respective journeys on faith’s less traveled road. God invites us now on divergent paths, new chances to share our journeys with others, others we do not know, and to do so as an exploration of what it means to be on a new adventure with Jesus. It is faithful for us to take these less traveled road journeys with Jesus and to encounter others along the way whose approach to worship, music, faith, is different than our own, and to embrace the truth that with God there is more than one way to see things, “done the right way.”
Consider Ananias, a believer in the Way, who saw no glowing light on any roadway, yet all the same finds himself on faith’s unexpected journey. God calls him out of his comfort zone on Straight Street to share some portion of faith’s less traveled road journey with the man who’d only days before would’ve arrested and killed him. Yet somewhere, out there on faith’s less traveled road, Ananias begins to call this guy, “brother.” Time on faith’s less traveled road, changes us, makes us more forgiving, makes us brave, helps us to cope with, and sometimes even come to love, change; changes in self, changes in others, and changes in circumstance. Aren’t those changes, the ones that pull us out of our comfort zones, ones that have made all the difference?
And, along that line, isn’t it true that how God speaks to you, may not be how God speaks to me? But, isn’t the beautifully important part not how God speaks to us, but that God speaks to each of us. This has been the case, mostly recently with the Bryants. Last September, Harriet was notified that the grant funding her position at Hickory Public Housing Authority would end in December. Since last September, Harriet has sent out over 40 job applications, and has been repeatedly rejected by potential employers for having wondrous experience but the wrong educational degree. This took us to that part of faith’s less traveled road that some of you know so well, the road section that gets us to thinking, “what if I had taken that other road.” And although, while we’ve been on that road stretch, we have seen no glowing light ball, we believe that we’ve heard God speaking, when in an emotional moment, Harriet said, “I have followed your call everywhere.”
She’s right. And it is that moment of realization when we believe that we heard God’s call to take a different fork in the road. And, we are taking that fork, for we cannot avoid it, not if we are to seek Harriet remaining true to herself, to her hopes, and to her dreams. This fork in the road takes us to Melbourne, Florida, where Harriet will continue to complete her master’s degree work, while simultaneously furthering her career working with those who have autism, downs syndrome, prader willis, and other exceptionalities, too. This fork in the road also leads us to another congregation, one that I will serve as pastor, JOY Lutheran Church. Our taking of this fork impacts your journey, places you in a process of finding and learning a new pastor.
On one level, I feel really sad about this impact, but on another, I am so excited by it! We have come so far together in the past 3 and a half years. And when it comes to looking back, our business of looking back over our three and a half year journey, shouldn’t be about wondering how faith’s less traveled road has gotten us to where we are today, but should be about where faith’s less traveled road will take us into the future. We will all get where we need to go along this road, because the One who has called us to the road, journeys with us, and is faithful. The One who faithfully converts us is the One who faithfully guides us.
So, no matter the roads taken, no matter our conversion experience, we are all called by the same One to get out there and to journey. This certainly is not always the easiest way, but it does have the best benefits. Our fork in the road today brings lots of question about who will be our next pastor, and, who we are now, and, what does this all mean; those questions are faithful, and they will be answered in the fullness of God’s time, by the One who is faithful. Our part, as Bryants and Zion, at this fork in the road, is to love one another well in the time we have left, to forgive one another well in the time we have left, to keep up the well and good faithful work of doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God.
Our last Sunday together is February 11th. It is the last Sunday of Epiphany, the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday, the one called Quinquagesima—meaning 50 days out. Fifty days out from what? From the Feast of the Resurrection, called Easter. Faith’s less traveled road will have you beginning a new journey towards Easter with a new face in the pulpit. Yes, the face will change, but the love will remain, and the responsibility we all bear will remain–to love others as we’d love our ourselves, to love them with the love of Jesus. We know our mission, no need to listen for voices coming out of light balls to tell us what to do.
Yes, we’ve come to a new fork in the road; our steps in days to come will lead us apart. But these steps are faithful, and they are sure. And, as some stay, and others go, we’ll remain about our mission, journeying faith’s less traveled road, just at different places along the roadway.
Let’s have the faith in Jesus to trust that the One who calls us, who converts us, is faithful to guide us. And, that a day will come, when at another fork in the road, we’ll pause with Robert Frost to say, “We shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and we—we took the one less traveled by, and it has made all the difference.”