On Loaves, Fish, and Chicken Sandwiches

I know people are going to misunderstand this blog. I just do, and when it happens it will be for the same reasons I am trying to highlight here. I wish it weren’t so, but there will be those that push my analogy too far

As Rachel Held Evans has pointed out, the world will survive without another Chick-fil-A post. But I have had all this rattling around my head with last Sunday’s gospel passage (John 6:1-21), and maybe I just need to get this out.

To me, one of the most dramatic and overlooked elements of this episode and the rest of John 6 is the manipulation and rapid intention to remove Jesus’ personal freedom. At the very moment this miracle becomes apparent (when the left-overs are collected), Jesus starts picking up some bad vibrations from the crowd. They want to “take him by force to make him king” (John 6:15, ESV). So Jesus runs away.

As soon as they discover the miracle that has been done, they are not driven to follow Jesus, ask him questions, or discover more about him at all. Instead they want to possess him and the power he wields. They move, against Jesus’ will, to guaranteed that he is aligned with their will, their intentions, their agenda. They don’t care what Jesus wants. They don’t care who he is. They don’t care to discover his purpose. Jesus is not a person to them, he is merely a tool to accomplish their agenda, willing or not, come hell or high water.

Here’s where I’m going to get into trouble.

I was reading this article by John Pierce on Baptists Today. His point (at least as I read Pierce’s blog), is not so much to choose sides as to reflect on the outcry through the historically Baptist lens of freedom. Pierce deserves particular commendation for his willingness to consider all this through the eyes of Dan Cathy.

As Pierce gambles to guess, I don’t believe Cathy intended to engage in a battle over gay rights. The original report seems to be the product of the Baptist Press spinmeisters, who chose to highlight a small portion of an otherwise typical interview, captioning the title in a manner so as to suggest Cathy is aligned with their greater agenda. In the uproar that followed, Cathy sought to clarify his position (which I read as “softer” than the SBC agenda  he was depicted as espousing), but the spinmeisters kept pushing. As Pierce states:

In other words, the Southern Baptist news and public relations arm is not helping Cathy (whom they claim as one of their own) in clarifying his company’s perspective and eagerness to exit the culture battlefield. They have a war to fight and they want Chick-Fil-A in their corner — willing or not.

And there it is again. “Willing or not.”

My “biblical ear” hears echoes of the John 6 text in the experience of Chick-fil-A executive Dan Cathy. Both Cathy & Jesus are seen as potentially powerful allies in a battle that neither one wants to fight. There are those that seek to manipulate what they both say and do, in order to accomplish what neither intends. Each finds himself facing an unexpected enemy–those close who work to take away their freedom and personhood, reducing them each to a weapon to be wielded or a showpiece to display.

You have the freedom to patronize Chick-fil-A, or to buy food elsewhere. You have the freedom to have your own motivations and convictions. You have the freedom to write or say what you will.

But you do not have the right to take away anyone else’s freedom. And you certainly do not have the right to suggest Jesus is on your side. Because here, in John 6, Jesus runs the other way when he sees these freedom-takers coming toward him.

 

The funny thing is that I really do believe these “issues” would be nonexistent if we would simply choose to value people over issues. Discussion over “issues” becomes so violently enraged because it ignores the human quotient; indeed, it dehumanizes those our “issues” affect.

I am intentionally naive enough to believe that if we could all sit down, break bread, maybe even eat a chicken sandwich–if we were willing & able to spend some time & engage one another with our hearts tuned toward freedom, I think we would find a lot less to fight about. And that would be a beautiful day. I think even Jesus would join us.

 

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Enough

John 6:1-14

The story of the feeding of the 5000 could not be more familiar.

Jesus is there, it’s Passover, and this large crowd descends upon Jesus. Jesus speaks first, asking Philip where they will be able to buy food for all these people. The narrator tells us that Jesus is asking a sneaky question, but his disciples don’t know this.

Philip is dumbfounded, remarking that they do not have the resources to give each person even a nibble. Always one trying to please, Andrew (the brother of Simon Peter) points out that there is a boy with five barley loaves and two fish; but Andrew concedes that is but a few drops in the ocean of need.

Jesus tells the disciples to have everyone sit down. He gives thanks for the loaves and fish, and distributes them among those who are sitting. When everyone has eaten what each wants, Jesus instructs the disciples to take up the scraps, and there are more leftovers than there were “start-froms.”

The people are amazed.

 

Our familiarity with this story keeps us from seeing what a troublesome passage this truly is.

Jesus is manipulative, withholding information and provoking Philip into saying the wrong thing so that the miracle would be more amazing.

Then there’s all of what Tom & Ray from the radio program Car Talk would call “obfuscation”—the obscuring of relevant information by adding unimportant details: What does it matter that the loaves are barley? Why five loaves? Why two fish? Does it matter that the place where Jesus tells them to sit is very grassy? Or that they eat while seated?

And perhaps most troublesome of all: While this is an iconic image for us, even depicted in our Laborers with Christ window in the 3:00 position, it seems this miracle brought nothing but trouble to Jesus.

The immediate result is that the people suddenly try to “take him by force to make him king,” as we read in John 6:15. The immediate result. As in, “Thanks Jesus for feeding us and doing this amazing thing, but now we are going to force you to be who we want you to be, and—oh yeah—you’re going to have to keep feeding us and our countrymen and women indefinitely.”

This is like a kid who finds a frog. He is so enamored by the frog that he decides to keep it forever, so he can eternally be entertained by this frog. So the kid puts the frog in his pocket where it dies.

These people are so impressed by Jesus that they want to possess him and have him perform at their will.

This is frighteningly similar to the way so many in our world think of God. If they are drawn to God, it is in a time of crisis or great need. If God provides that need, they decide God must continue to provide in a miraculous way or else it was all a fluke and God does not exist or care for them.

The same line of thinking happens in terms of religious experience, as well. A person has an awesome, deep, and empowering experience of God’s presence and love, and then feels betrayed when God doesn’t give them that emotional high every time they rattle off some magic words of prayer.

God doesn’t live in our boxes. And Jesus fled this crowd that sought him because he didn’t want to live in their box either.

But our story gets worse before it gets better. Skipping down a few verses, this crowd from which Jesus flees eventually catches up with him in v.23. When they ask Jesus where he went, he points out that they don’t really want to follow him, they just want their bellies full.

This is uncomfortably familiar, as well. We, like those criticized in Philippians 3:19, have made our bellies our gods. We consume, indiscriminately, rather than consider how to use our resources to advance God’s mission. We consume, indiscriminately, rather than consider that our bodies are “temple[s] of the Holy Spirit within [us]” (1Cor 6:19).

The fact of the matter is that Jesus spends the rest of John chapter 6 (and several parts of later chapters) distancing himself from this miracle of feeding, correcting their mistaken interpretation of Jesus’ provision of bread, and running away when all else fails. As John tells the story, this miracle made more trouble for Jesus than almost anything else in his ministry.

So why do we connect with this episode of Jesus’ life? Why do we immortalize it in art and literature? Why does it make it into every children’s Sunday School Series? Why do we return to our memory of it, even when we are older?

One reason, no doubt, is that we like the image of a Jesus—and a God—who provides. On the face of it, this story (especially in the other accounts) is a beautiful image of a Jesus who is keyed-in to the needs of those who follow him. He shows compassion in recognizing and responding to their hunger; and Jesus uses the power of his divinity to miraculously meet their need.

Another reason, I believe, is that we like the image of Jesus giving in abundance. We want to worship a God who desires to feed us when we are hungry. We want to believe in a God who is willing to bend the cosmos to provide for us. This is especially powerful when we are at the bottom, struggling to make ends meet, uncertain of what the future holds. But it remains powerful even when we are safe, secure, and well-fed. Our appetite never dwindles, it only ever increases. And as it increases, we expect God’s supply-chain to step-up its production as well.

 

But while this is a distortion of the image of abundance that God desires for us, abundance is, in a way, the primary point of this miracle. I believe that most of Jesus’ miracles—just as with Jesus’ teachings—were intended to teach us about the Kingdom of God. The symbolism of the overflowing baskets of leftovers—especially after beginning with so little—is a powerful communicator of the reality of the Kingdom of God, where small is great, weak is strong, and poor is rich. It mystically communicates something about the abundance of God’s love for us, and the “overflowing cup” of grace, spoken of so eloquently by the author of Psalm 23. The abundance of life in the Kingdom of God is the point—it is what Jesus wants everyone to understand.

But understand they do not.

[LONG PAUSE]

Do we?

Jesus has a way of being enigmatic, even in his own time. Pearls before swine? Deny your father and mother? First is last and last is first? The servant who took the safe path and did not risk his talent is condemned?

Even Jesus’ disciples had to keep asking him what the heck he was talking about.

We don’t appear to have that luxury. But do we understand Jesus? Especially this miracle? Do we get what Jesus is doing? What Jesus is trying to teach us?

An honest answer might be “No.” And I respect that answer more than you probably know. The truth is that “I don’t understand” is often my honest response to something I read in the Bible or see God doing in the world.

But I deeply believe that God wants us to wrestle with these questions, much like Jacob wrestling with the angel in Genesis 32. It is usually in the struggle—rather than in the knowing—that we most hear God’s voice and experience God’s presence. Where we find God is somewhere between five loaves and five thousand people, between two fish and twelve baskets of left-overs.

 

It is hard to comprehend the abundance of life in the Kingdom of God when we seem to be facing a surprising lack of resources in our present life. In our lives, in our culture, and in our churches, time is in very short supply. To say nothing of other more tangible resources.

A week ago Friday, I was invited to a discussion group by our region’s Executive Minister, Larry Greenfield. The topic of our conversation was a document produced by a task force of our region, whose assignment was to identify the greatest challenges our region faces. This is all part of the Transformed by the Spirit initiative of our denomination, which I expect you will be hearing far more about in the coming months.

Anyway, one of the points that garnered quite a bit of discussion was the assertion—a correct one, I believe—that a big part of our challenges have happened because American Christianity hitched it’s wagon to secular models of organization, borrowed from industry, business, and politics. To quote the document, “Our secularistic engines have failed, and now, without sails designed to catch God’s spirit as their wind, we languish becalmed in the water.”

Poetic and powerful, if you’re lucky enough to understand it.

The document argues that we have adapted and forced Christianity into compliance with, for example, models of doing business. For a while, this seems to have served Christianity well, given the exponential expansion of American Christianity in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. But that model of doing business is no longer successful for business, so it is no wonder it is failing so many churches as well.

Much of our debate that day had to do with what the appropriate response was to all of this. Do we scour our culture for new models, believing that if we find the right model—and if we can stay on top of changes in the business world—we will experience a new and lasting revival? Do we write off anything that might be learned from the business community, given the dramatic decline we have experienced, a consequence of this unholy pairing? Does our salvation come when we stay on top of the fads of the world, riding the wave like a surfer? Or is it when we disregard the “newest things,” instead focusing on the Gospel and accepting our smallness?

As usual, the truth likely lies somewhere in the middle.

But the one thing I am sure of is that things will never be the same. I wonder if the decline of American Christianity since the 1960’s can be compared with the economic crash that began in 2008. The expansion of the market in the years before 2008 should not have happened. While we think of that time as “normal,” it was really irresponsible and exceptional—individually and corporately. In a similar way, perhaps American Christianity should not have expanded as rapidly or as far as it did. Clearly, at least in the waning years, the core reality of the church was substituted by a not-so cleverly disguised social club.

Those expansion years are now behind us, and like so many families struggling with upside-down mortgages, job loss, and other day-to-day crises, much of American Christianity is overburdened as a result of its earlier expansion. Some “contracting” will inevitably be a part of our transformation into the future.

But what is certain to me is that things will never look that way again…because it never should have looked that way before.

 

But “abundance” is one of the hallmarks of the Kingdom of God, and so abundance will characterize the life of American Christianity—and our individual lives—as we adapt to the changing present and future. It will be abundance even though it doesn’t look like a thousand people on a church roll or hundreds of thousands of dollars in the church budget.

  • It will be an abundance of God’s presence, as we are led in our participation in God’s mission.
  • It will be an abundance of God’s love, as we embody compassion for our neighbor.
  • It will be an abundance of God’s Spirit, as the flame that burns within us becomes a fire that consumes and inspires those we meet.
  • It will be an abundance of God’s peace, as we are reconciled to one another.
  • It will be an abundance of God’s joy, as we celebrate our newfound life in Christ.

On some level, we are experiencing that abundance right now, because I believe God has already given us enough—enough to do what God desires right now.

Sure, we I wish we had some more people in Sunday School and in the service. Sure, there are many things we could do if we had a bigger budget. But we have enough to do something right now, with God’s leading.

Look at what we have done—with just our building in the past couple years. On a weekly basis, we have dozens of adults and youth pass through our doors for support, encouragement, friendship, spiritual direction, social services, vocational guidance, computer proficiency learning, counseling, food, and so much more. They come to the Career Center, LATTE, a meeting of the Boy Scouts or Daisy Scouts, therapy, BEDS, and Bible Studies. And we’re still just talking about weekdays!

Perhaps God will multiply our contribution like these loaves and fish. Perhaps, like in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, we will be “put in charge of many things” since we have been “trustworthy in a few things” (v.23).

I don’t know.

But I do know this: Jesus was never hindered in his ministry by a lack of physical resources. Sometimes, like in our NT text, more resources appeared as if by magic. Sometimes, individuals stepped up to provide those needs. In other occasions, it turned out those needs weren’t “needs” after all.

I think our experience will be similar. In some cases, God will provide in miraculous ways. In others, people will step up unexpectedly—which is no less miraculous. And, of course, we’ll discover some of our “needs” weren’t really needed after all.

 

The kingdom of God is an abundant place. That is what Jesus is telling us. That is the reality God is inviting us to live into. And we’ll find God working toward that abundance—if we look between five loaves and five thousand people; if we take a peek between two fish and twelve baskets of left-overs.

Let’s feed and be fed as our Lord teaches us.

Standing at the Crossroads

Psalm 85:8-13

Let me hear what God the LORD will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.

Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.

The LORD will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
and will make a path for his steps.

 

How many of you have one of these things? [HOLD UP “TOM TOM”] This one is called a Tom Tom; it is a vehicle-based GPS device.

It’s an amazing piece of technology. There’s something in here that reaches into space, trying to communicate with at least four of the 24 operational satellites that are each 12,000 miles above earth. This teeny-tiny little box measures the distance between itself and three or four of the satellites, does a mathematical computation that makes my head spin, adjusts for interference by tall buildings or trees, and determines its location on planet earth to within a few yards.

You punch in an address, and it will give you turn-by-turn directions to get there. I will tell you (for instance) that the trip from my apartment to my in-law’s house in Chattanooga is 612 miles, not counting stops for stretching, gas, or food. And this little box [“TOM TOM”] always knows where we are. It knows every mile of interstate or US highway; it knows every exit and intersection. It knows where we can stop for gas, and it knows at which exit we will find somewhere the kids would eat. It even knows—less reliably—when we will arrive, though I assure you its sketchy reliability in this regard has nothing to do with the speed we drive.

It is an amazing piece of technology. Of course, when I was learning to drive, we didn’t have anything like this. We had maps.

I confess I may be a bit nostalgic about maps, but they give me the big picture of where I am traveling and what is around me. And I find that their batteries last longer.

But using a map is very different than using a GPS device like my Tom Tom. My Tom Tom likes addresses, and unless you are in a big city, an address means very little to a map. What does matter is the nearest intersection.

I grew up in a town small farm town, but you knew still where everything was by the nearest intersection.

  • So the Fire Station was at Washington and Alyea, with the Post Office next door.
  • The Library was down the block at Washington and Sigler.
  • The School was at Main and Jackson.

And even in such a small town, you made certain assumptions about persons based on where they lived.

  • Families in the historic center of town tended to be more established, with the west side more affluent than the east.
  • If you lived in one of the subdivisions on the north or southwest sides, your family has probably only recently moved to town.
  • And if you lived outside town limits, you were either a farmer or had no connection or history with the town.

These sort of distinctions and assumptions are amplified in larger and more diverse municipalities. But place remains significant.

  • Place is at the heart of creation, as the story is told in Genesis 2. There place provides purpose for the newly created human, and this place becomes the setting of God seeking a companion for the human.
  • Place is at the center of the Tower of Babel crisis, where humanity disobediently clustered into a single place, rather than “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth,” as God had commanded.
  • Place is at the core of the covenant with Abraham, as God vows to give Abraham’s descendants a “promised land” where they can be a proper people, with God as their king.
  • Place is important in the Temple-based religion of the early Israelites, who pilgrimaged to the place where they understood God to reside.
  • Place is significant for Jesus, who seemed to always know his ministry would culminate in Jerusalem.
  • Place has remained pivotal throughout Christian history, as many pilgrims journey to the places of the Bible, often learning more from the journey than the destination.

Whether making assumptions, forming our identity, or finding our way, place is important. And despite advances in technology, I find place is still marked by crossroads.

 

Crossroads are powerful symbols of our lives. On an otherwise lonely trip, you historically were likely to encounter other people at a crossroad, so a crossroads could be symbolic for gathering places and undiscovered possibility. But crossroads also became hiding places for bandits, so a crossroads could be a dangerous place, as well. They are a place for getting lost, and a place for finding oneself. They symbolize choice, and they guide us to our destination.

 

Our scripture reading describes a crossroads—a place—to which God desires to bring us. It sounds like such a beautiful place:

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky (vv.10-11)

This place to which we journey with God is the intersection of “steadfast love” & “faithfulness”…the crossroads of “righteousness” & “peace.”

It is not an accident that these four words express the same qualities that are most frequently used to describe God. Consider for instance Exodus 34:6-7:

“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” (Ex. 34:6-7a)

We journey to God when we set our sights on these crossroads. Or perhaps better put, we journey to these places when we set our sights on God.

This crossroads is our destination in the New Heaven and New Earth that we read about in Revelation. It is the complete presence of the Kingdom of God, which is not yet fulfilled in our midst. It is that place described in Isaiah 11 where

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.

They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea. (vv.6, 9)

It does sound like an amazing place, doesn’t it?

Have you heard about this neighborhood?—streets paved with gold, foundations bedazzled with precious gems, gates and walls studded with pearls and other beautiful stones. I’ve driven through some ritzy neighborhoods, but I haven’t seen anything like this! I certainly haven’t lived there.

Unfortunately, the crossroads of “Steadfast Love” & “Faithfulness” and “Righteousness” & “Peace” locate this place in a very different area of town than where most of us live. Where we live isn’t anywhere near that nice.

Some of us live at the crossroads of Doubt & Despair. Our faith has been shaken, and we are no longer certain that God cares for us. We believe we are all alone in this world—that our lives are the product of mere choice and happenstance—and the chaos of it renders us hopeless.

  • We need to experience God’s steadfast love and faithfulness, but we don’t know how to get there.

Others find themselves at the corner of Hurt & Pain. We’ve trusted, and been burned. Our hopes have been dashed; our soul aches with heartbreak. Or perhaps your pain is more physical in nature, like Paul who pleaded with God to remove the thorn in his flesh? But the pain remains.

  • We need healing, and the strength that comes with experiencing God’s steadfast love and peace, but it seems so far away.

And what about those who catch the bus at Abuse & Shame? We who have been taken advantage of, treated as less than human, and been convinced it is our own fault. Our shame renders us unable to open up—much less ask for directions to find our way out of this neighborhood.

  • We need to experience the vindication of God’s righteousness and love, but we are embarrassed that we need it.

Lots of people lose their way at the corner of Confusion & Disillusionment. There was a time we thought we understood—when we believed in something that did not develop as we anticipated. Maybe it was life. Maybe it was God. Maybe it was a friend or spouse. Maybe—and this might be the most frightening type of disillusionment—maybe it was possibility, and we have secretly vowed never to believe we can have what we want.

  • We need to experience God’s steadfast love and faithfulness, but we struggle with whether there is a point since we suspect we will be let down once again.

And the most dangerous neighborhood of all might be where Emptiness & Solitude intersect. This is the place where we know we are incomplete or broken, but we have given up hope of completeness or wholeness. This is the place where we isolate ourselves from the very persons and resources that could heal us.

  • We need an experience of God’s presence, to fill us with God’s love, so that we might be whole again. But how do we take up the journey in a place like this?

Compared to God’s neighborhood, we live in the ghetto—on the wrong side of the tracks. And there is so much that keeps us from reaching our destination. The powers of darkness in this world raise up every obstacle to dissuade us from our spiritual journey:

  • Construction zones where our progress is slowed to a crawl.
  • Road closures and detours
  • Flooding and bridges out

And, of course, unlike the Tom Tom, a new route is not calculated automatically. These obstacles can be a serious drain on our energies, perhaps even making us “run out of gas” before reaching our destination.

It doesn’t help (of course) that the path God calls us to take is not an easy one. Do you remember what Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:13-14?—”Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” The path of discipleship does not lead one to the crossroads of Wealth & Fame, but instead involves “denying yourself, and taking up your cross and following Jesus (Matt 16:24).

There’s no spiritual GPS that we can rely on. We do not even have a map where we can locate these crossroads and plan out a route that brings us to a place of being with and like God.

 

And for churches today, our fear is all the more urgent, as the ways we have done church for years no longer seem to bring about the same results. Our world is changing—as it always does—and many churches are struggling to change with it.

There are no guarantees. No one has traveled these roads before. There are no maps—no plans of attack that are sure to succeed.

But yet God beckens us to step out, at this very moment, in the midst of this Great Unraveling, and says, “Follow me.”

In this world without maps or spiritual GPS, God is our compass. And if you have never relied on a compass for travel before, it can be a bit unsettling.

 

I sort of got lost once.

I was geocaching with my daughter Audrey. For those who don’t know, geocaching is like high-tech treasure hunting. People will hide waterproof boxes with trinkets and a note pad, usually on public land (with permission). They post the GPS coordinates in an online database.

You punch the coordinates into your GPS device, and the device gives you a bearing to follow and the distance to the box. Now, having only a bearing is difficult for those who are used to more information, but the GPS will at least continually adjust your bearing so you arrive at the proper place. Since GPS is only accurate to a few yards at best, you still have to find the box, which is often well-concealed in the hollow of a log or something similar.

Well, Audrey and I found the box without too much trouble, and we signed the log that said we had found it, took a trinket and left a trinket. And then the GPS died.

This GPS actually. This device is made to be used in a vehicle, and I was experimenting with whether it was accurate enough for geocaching. Well…it proved accurate enough, but the battery life was too short. Or so I learned.

Thankfully, I had a compass, and I knew there was a trail somewhere north of us. So we looked at the compass for a bearing, and took off.

 

With a compass, you only get a bearing, a direction. If you are on a path, you never know how long you can follow it, what the terrain will look like, or even how far your destination is. You only know which way to go. You have to continually adjust your bearing when you encounter an obstacle.

I find the compass to be a good analogy for God’s calling on a person’s life. God gives us a bearing, a direction; and we are invited to choose our path, as we follow that bearing until God gives us further instructions.

Sometimes, like Jonah, we run away. And I believe that eventually, we all like Jonah come around, too.

I believe God gives us a bearing instead of a destination because there are obstacles in life we simply cannot overcome. By giving us a bearing to follow, and by later adjusting that bearing, God is able to lead us around obstacles we otherwise could never have surmounted.

I also believe that God gives us a bearing when God calls us because our choices affect our ultimate destination. God took an amazing risk by giving us free will and inviting us to participate in the creation and redemption of our world. A destination deceives us into believing that the day will come when we somehow “arrive.” Bearings emphasize the journey, as they are continually adjusted by the God who is attentive in journeying with us.

 

Now maybe I’ve been rambling this morning. I hope it hasn’t been too much. But the point here at the end is that we are all somewhere this morning. We are all in a place—at a crossroads. I won’t pretend to know where you are; most of you I have only met this weekend. But God gave me this message to preach, and I am trusting God to speak to you too.

Like the traveler in Robert Frost’s immortal poem, you have reached an intersection: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” You, like the traveler, may have “looked down one as far as [you] could / To where it bent in the undergrowth.” You can’t see where the roads lead from where you stand, so you fear making a decision.

Listen to me: though we may not have the perspective to know where the road goes, we can trust the God calls us to the journey, who walks with us and gives us bearings to follow. This God knows these roads, and will guide you if you will hear.

This is where our psalm began:

Let me hear what God the LORD will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.

Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

No matter the intersection where you find yourself in life, God is speaking if you will hear. God is guiding if you will follow. God will deliver those who believe.

And this is where our psalm ends:

The LORD will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
and will make a path for his steps.

You are standing at the crossroads.

Trust God as your Savior. Trust God as your leader. Trust God as your compass.

May God give us the strength to journey into the new world of God’s mission.