About a week or so ago, I forced myself to take a vigorous walk through Rockville. I was tired; it had been a long day, but I knew tired or not, I needed some fresh air and some heart-pumping exercise so I walked. I decided to take a different route, one I hadn’t taken before and found myself on the long incline that begins at the corner of Orchard and Union Streets. My walk would lead me up toward town past the hospital on the far side of the road and the library and Union Church on the near side. Those of you who yearly complete the full distance of our Good Friday Walk do this incline annually. You know how exhausting it can be, but I wasn’t giving in to the aches in the back of my legs or the thump of my heart. I just kept on walking.
Somewhere between the library and the church, I saw a well-maintained and carefully mowed grassy piece of yard. There were no houses attached and seemingly, no real reason for the patch of well-cut grass in the little space but what was even odder was the laid out path of evenly placed bricks, all very level and all in good repair. As a general rule, meeting up with a path isn’t very strange but this one didn’t lead anywhere. There was no flagpole at the end of it, no bench, no flower garden, nothing. It was a path that went nowhere. I couldn’t help wondering why anyone would spend the time to make a path to nowhere and not only this, but someone had decided this little space was important enough to maintain and care for and about.
Well, I kept walking but, as I walked, I couldn’t help thinking about that well-groomed path. What did it mean? Why was it there? And, what might it say to me? I’m going to disappoint I’m afraid. I didn’t have any answers at least not to the first two questions but on the subject of, “What might it say to me?” I did have a thought. This, of course, brings us to the passage of scripture we heard this morning from the Gospel of John. Christ was very carefully laying the groundwork for his impending death. He loved the men and women who had traveled with him in his three year ministry. He knew he would have to leave them. And, he knew that the path he would prepare for them was essential. If the path wasn’t clear, if the path didn’t lead to somewhere, his disciples would not be strong enough to carry on in his absence. Christ’s work on earth was dependent on the faith of this small band of followers. They would either see the purpose of his time among them or move toward it or they would stumble and fail. If that happened, God’s good news would die with him and, unfortunately, with them. So the path had to clear; it had to lead somewhere.
There is such beauty in these words and such hope. To insure the disciples would not feel abandoned, Christ promised a “Spirit of truth” and an advocate. He loved his disciples and with the kind of love of a God, who truly cherishes us as God’s own beloved children, Christ reassured them. He gave them words to ponder and to embrace. He gave them what he knew God had already given them…a place in the family of God’s beloved and treasured household. The disciples would not be abandoned or left orphaned. Life in Christ would continue; there was a point. There was a meaning in all they’d been taught and now, they would be empowered to continue to reach out and share what they had learned about God and about God’s grace. The path they walked would lead somewhere.
We know we need the kind of guidance, which can and does lead us to a place of belonging. I’ve been reading a book entitled “Same Kind of Different as Me”. It’s a true story about a wealthy art dealer, his beautiful and wife and a man raised on a plantation in the south who essentially lived the life a slave long after slavery was made illegal. Ron Hall, his wife Deborah and Denver Moore become friends and eventually Denver is not only considered a friend but, a part of the family. How that all happened seems like a fairy tale but, the fact is, by the grace of God’s love and compassion and love of Deborah for the homeless and the needy, it happened. At the beginning of the story Denver is understandably suspicious and uncooperative. He is a man in his sixties and he has lived a very tough life on the streets. He spent time in jail and did whatever it took to survive, but none of that seemed to matter to Deborah Hall. She decided to change the part of the world where Denver and those like him…homeless, hungry, in need and she convinced Ron this was what God had asked of them. They would make a difference. Denver was the toughest nut to crack but Deborah wouldn’t let up and eventually Denver caved, gave his life to Christ, found his own God given mission to pursue and these three very unlike people from very unlikely backgrounds, became family.
This is an amazing story and it rings so true because what the Halls and Denver found regardless of their obvious differences was a single path and all three could walk it together. This path went somewhere. It would lead them to a closer relationship to a God who loved them all, who looked past their faults and their distinctions. They found in Christ a cherished relationship and they also found a love for one another, the kind of love that even death…and there would be that…could not take from them. They were family and they would remain family throughout their lives together and beyond this life, in the next.
So that is the promise the disciples were receiving from Christ…they were family. Neither their past actions nor their future failings could or would separate from God’s love. It is the promise we receive too. Christ made a promise to us too. “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. …because I live, you also will live.” A promise such as this one has to be shared and that is exactly what the disciples did…they shared the good news of God’s love in Christ. The church grew; lives were saved; faith prevailed and we have heard the echoes, whispers, shouts, and acclimations down through the ages firing up our faith and calling us, each and every one of us to follow the path set before us so God’s word of gracious love will never die. Our path does go somewhere. May God be praised! Amen.