“Guide Our Feet”

August 6, 2017                                                                         

Psalm 42:1-8, Luke 1:68-79

“Guide Our Feet”

 

As we read the Psalm in text study this week, we heard the Psalmist’s deep longing for God. Both the Psalm and Luke were written in turbulent times. The speakers in each case are acknowledging the difficult times and turning to God for help. The Psalmist turns to God by relying on memories of times when the connection to God has been strong. It is a beautiful reclaiming of all the paths walked with God and the reading ends by remembering that God’s love is indeed available every day. Sometimes the way to find God right now is by remembering how God has been present in the past.

 

Zechariah’s powerful song of faith comes after many months of silence. He questioned the angel Gabriel’s prophecy that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son named John in their old age. Gabriel silenced him because he didn’t trust the prophecy. The text you just heard are the first words he speaks after his son is born.

 

Zechariah sings that God is sending Jesus to bring hope and healing to the world. Zechariah recognizes God is calling us to join in this work of service and justice. He turns his song to his newborn son, John, and tells him that he is to prepare the way for Jesus in the world. The final lines of this song recall God’s forgiveness and mercy in each day. Just as God is bringing light to those in darkness, God is guiding our feet into the way of peace.

 

I preached on this text in November and said that this text is much deeper than a call to smooth things over and move on. “Instead we get a glimpse of where we must stand now: between life and death, hope and despair, fear and courage, violence and peace. This is the place where life happens. We get into trouble when we convince ourselves that it is an either or.” (Sermon November 20, 2016)

 

There is a profound call to peace here and it is not just a call to kiss and make up. Instead it is a call to cultivate deep peace within ourselves so that we can extend that peace into the world. God is guiding our feet in the way of peace even while there are places of deep unrest in our world.

 

Some of the most powerful voices at General Synod this summer were the voices of the youth. There were youth delegates from every conference. Often, when we remember to try and make room for younger people, we do so asking them to be our helpers. But these youth were full delegates. They looked at all the Synod resolutions and decided to devote their energy to studying gun violence.

 

The resolution was not about gun control, but asking congress to designate money to study gun violence. 15,000 people were killed by guns in 2016. The CDC estimates that gun violence is one of the top five causes of death for people under 65, but efforts to study this have been blocked by Congress for the last 16 years. The youth came to the microphone and told stories. A sixteen-year-old girl has lost three people in her life to gun violence. A teenage boy was playing football in a park with friends, when a car drove by and began shooting. The kids dove to the ground to avoid the bullets. The youth explained that this issue affects their daily lives.

 

Can you hear Zechariah saying, “Guide our feet in the way of peace?”

 

John Lennon, whose life was cut short by gun violence, wrote a song called “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” and in it he said, “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”

 

We talked in text study this week about that phenomenon of having life interrupted by an illness, an injury, a loss, or something unexpected and what we do when the way we have known our self changes as a result. Congregations can be interrupted as well. We don’t have guarantees about the circumstances of our lives, but we are guaranteed that God will be present in all of it. It will likely mean some struggling when circumstances knock us off our center of gravity.

 

My friend Jan Richardson wrote an essay called “The Wrestling is Where the Blessing Begins.” She reflects on the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel in Genesis 32 and reminds us that blessing emerges from that encounter. They wrestle all night. When dawn breaks, the angel asks Jacob to let him go, but Jacob replies, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” He is given a new name by the angel and he walks away with a limp. Jan asks when an experience of wrestling with God helped us know who we are and which way to go. She writes about Jacob’s blessing saying:

 

JACOB'S BLESSING

If this blessing were easy,
anyone could claim it.
As it is,
I am here to tell you
that it will take some work.

This is the blessing
that visits you
in the struggling,
in the wrestling,
in the striving.

This is the blessing
that comes
after you have left
everything behind,
after you have stepped out,
after you have crossed
into that realm
beyond every landmark
you have known.

This is the blessing
that takes all night
to find.

It’s not that this blessing
is so difficult,
as if it were not filled
with grace
or with the love
that lives
in every line.

It’s simply that
it requires you
to want it,
to ask for it,
to place yourself
in its path.
It demands that you
stand to meet it
when it arrives,
that you stretch yourself
in ways you didn’t know
you could move,
that you agree
to not give up.

So when this blessing comes,
borne in the hands
of the difficult angel
who has chosen you,
do not let go.
Give yourself
into its grip.

It will wound you,
but I tell you
there will come a day
when what felt to you
like limping

was something more
like dancing
as you moved into
the cadence
of your new
and blessed name.

(from The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief)

And so we pray for the stamina to wrestle with God, for the ability to be silent and listen to God, for the capacity to remember the ways God has been present with us when we are longing to experience God with us now. And then may we allow God to guide our feet in the way of peace.