Sunday, September 30, 2018

Two Paths

• Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost.
with James 5 and Mark 9    @FirstUMCBville   @kerrfunk

• (I was last in this pulpit on Sept 9, before going to Ireland for two weeks. Our guest speakers were Denver Stevens and then Benjamin Wells from Marshall campus ministry.)
• I arrived in WV 5 years ago this week. Oh, the possibilities for exploring the woods and mountains, so close in the Barboursville park! Mostly the exploring I’ve done is worth repeating, but some not. Some marked paths, some un. Some clear, some with all Nature’s gifts (I walked through spiderwebs and spiders, thistles, dew…).
• Read Robert Frost’s Road Not Taken
Frost was describing a path, not a not-path.
He was not going out pathless.
Not even really a value judgment between the two,
like one was more adventurous or one was old and worn out.
He says the paths are pretty much equal.
• Jesus describes two paths that are NOT equal.
One is the path of kingdom things, the other of human things.
Kingdom things: prayer, humility, repentance.
Community. Being ‘in God’.
God is my savior, my defense, my salvation.
Human things: serving self. Not community but me.
• “Where the worm never dies, and the fire never goes out.” Uncomfortable phrases. This is the fruit of the human path, the path that doesn’t need God, the path Peter wanted Jesus to take after Peter in Mark 8 wanted to steer Jesus to safety. Get behind me Satan, you are not setting your mind on divine things but on human things (Mark 8:33).
Where the worm never dies, fire never goes out is Gehenna, a literal wasteland, superstitiously avoided because of its ancient history with human sacrifice, and consequently neglected and abused, full of rubbish and fire. There’s always a fire smoldering there, there’s always worms there.
The path to Gehenna is the human path, the self-sufficient I can do it by myself path. Jesus says it’s better to live with one foot, one hand, one eye than to end up in Gehenna instead of following the divine path.
• Robert Frost enjoys the relationship between hiker and path, and he finds both paths desirable, wants each path to be fulfilled, trod upon.
• We need a guide, and we HAVE a guide, and he does not always do what we want or expect (again, Mark 8) but he does right by us.
Our path is marked by mission (share the love of God, and make disciples).
Let us follow him not our own thinkings.

• 142 If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee

Mark 9:38-50 (CEB) 
38 John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone throwing demons out in your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.”
39 Jesus replied, “Don’t stop him. No one who does powerful acts in my name can quickly turn around and curse me. 40 Whoever isn’t against us is for us. 41 I assure you that whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will certainly be rewarded.
42 “As for whoever causes these little ones who believe in me to trip and fall into sin, it would be better for them to have a huge stone hung around their necks and to be thrown into the lake. 43 If your hand causes you to fall into sin, chop it off. It’s better for you to enter into life crippled than to go away with two hands into the fire of hell, which can’t be put out. 45 If your foot causes you to fall into sin, chop it off. It’s better for you to enter life lame than to be thrown into hell with two feet. 47 If your eye causes you to fall into sin, tear it out. It’s better for you to enter God’s kingdom with one eye than to be thrown into hell with two. 48 That’s a place where worms don’t die and the fire never goes out.[Isa. 66:24] 49 Everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? Maintain salt among yourselves and keep peace with each other.” ò

The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

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.