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Sunday, January 4, 2015

sunday, eleventh day of christmas

Sunday, January 4

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.
Opening Prayer: May those without hope take heart in you, O Christ.  May those with no home find shade at your right hand.  May those near the end see beginnings; may those at the last become first.  At the foot of your cross, O Christ, I come in prayer.  O Christ, be my help, O Christ, be my hope.  Amen. (Pamela Hawkins, Weavings Volume XXVI, Number 2)

Scripture Reading for the Day: John 14:1-14

Reading for Reflection:
     I had rented a car at the airport and dived recklessly into rush-hour traffic in a city I knew not at all.  I had glanced hastily at a map but (in my hurry and carelessness) had assumed that the way to my hotel and dinner with old friends would be more or less self-evident.  Within a quarter of an hour I had no idea where I was.  However, I knew I didn’t want to be there.  Once I left the interstate (which had seemed a good idea at the time) I found myself in a sprawling maze of dark warehouses and derelict tenements with bars on the windows and grates over the doors.  There were few other cars (and no people) in sight.
     Finally I saw in the distance the lighted sign of a 24-hour coffee shop.  I plunged toward it with the desperation and relief of a shipwrecked sailor sighting a lighthouse on the shore.
     Inside, when I asked for directions to get downtown, the waitress shrugged apologetically and said she didn’t know the way; she had never been that far.  My heart sank.  On a rising tide of panic, I began to fear, as one does in a nightmare, that I would be lost forever.
     But then a man who had been sitting in a back booth—camping there apparently: a bedroll and various bags were tucked in the corners—approached me.  His face bore the marks of a hard life; he had no teeth; his eyes were kind.  “Can I help you, ma’am?” he asked.
     Once again I explained my predicament.  This time, thank God, someone knew not only where I was, but also where I was headed, and how to get from here to there.
     “You’re just off Broadway here,” the man told me.  “You can be on it in a minute.  Once you get on that road, you just stay on it.”  He spread my crumpled disregarded map on the counter, and traced the way with his finger.  “The name of the street will change, but don’t you mind that.  You’ll come to train tracks by the river, and it will be confusing, but don’t you mind that either.  You just keep going forward.  You’ll come to a bridge.  Go over it.  Stay on that street.  After a while, you’ll see signs for downtown.  Then pretty soon you’ll see the name of the street you want, and you’ll turn left.  But till then, you just keep going on the road you’re on.”
     “Do you mean,” I exclaimed incredulously, “that all I have to do is get on Broadway at the next corner and then just go straight to my hotel?”
     He shook his head.  “No, ma’am,” he corrected me firmly.  “It ain’t straight at all.  Ain’t nothing straight about it.  But you just keep going forward, and you’ll get there all right.”
     I thanked the man, got back in the car, found Broadway, and stayed doggedly on it for many miles.  The way twisted and turned, as he had warned me it would.  The name of the road changed; it bumped over railroad tracks, flung itself across a wide river.  Once on the other side, I was in a less desolate landscape, and finally, as promised, I found the place and the friends I had been seeking.
     Everyone has had the experience, one way or another, of suddenly not knowing where one is, or which way to turn, what road to take.  The journey, which at first appeared straightforward, reveals itself to be full of unexpected dangers, unmarked crossroads, bewildering choices, discouraging setbacks.
     At the beginning of his Divine Comedy, the great Italian poet, Dante, finds himself in a similar situation, alone “in a dark wood” having lost “the straight way.”  Beset by terrors on every side, he is rescued by the Roman poet, Virgil, who guides Dante through Hell and Purgatory to the very edge of Paradise.  My own loss of “the straight way” in the “dark woods” of north Kansas City taught me a great deal that Dante also learns at the outset of his adventures.  Remembering that experience has helped me whenever I needed to find a way out of the dead ends and wrong turns that I continue to encounter along my pilgrim way.
     We are all on our long journeys home; we all get lost along the way.  We will need to ask for help.  We have to learn to recognize the help we have asked for when it comes.  We must not expect that the way will be easy.  We will need to be sure of our destination and take responsibility for the path we have chosen.  Then—and only then—we will have to keep going until we reach our destination, or need to ask for help again.
     None of which is as simple as it sounds. (Though the Way Be Lost by Deborah Smith Douglas, Weavings, Volume XXV, Number 3)

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself
Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that you are the way.  Helps us to walk in you.  Amen.

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