Another RoadPosted: January 4, 2015
SLIDE 3: TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
This morning is Epiphany Sunday, the Sunday closest to the 12th Day of Christmas. Alix Morehouse posted on Facebook, after all of the preparation for Christmas, why confine the celebration to one day? Why not stretch the Holiday and spread the cheer! I’m not sure I want twelve drummers drumming or ten Lords a Leaping, but extending the holiday of good cheer seems like a good idea.
SLIDE 4: EPIPAHY
On Epiphany we remember that the Wisemen presented their gifts to the baby Jesus, and then returned to their own country by another way. They had been warned in dream not to return to the evil Herod, who would seek the life of the divine child. In Matthew’s narrative the Holy Family was forced to flee on the road to Egypt, where they hid until news came to them of the death of Herod. Then once again Mary, Joseph and the child traveled the road back to Israel.
SLIDE 5: ANOTHER ROAD IN A NEW YEAR
In our scripture this morning Jeremiah wrote to the Jewish people in slavery in Babylon to prepare for God to lead them on the road home to Israel: “I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble.” We are all setting out on another road in a new year. We are all on a journey individually and collectively. So this morning I want to spend some time reflecting on the image of another road.
SLIDE 6: INTO THE WOODS
The day after Christmas Beth and I went to the movies to see the film adaptation of the play “Into the Woods.” The Play is an extended metaphor squishing together several of Grimm’s fairy tales that involve the courage of making choices and choosing paths. “Into the Woods” illustrates six truths we also find in the metaphors of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.
SLIDE 7: FIRST TRUTH – THE QUEST
The first truth is the ancient archetype of the quest. The characters set out on a journey because they have been summoned to a purpose. They cannot stay behind, and rest secure at home, instead they are called to go into the wood, a place of shadow and uncertainty. Like Abram summoned to leave the land of his ancestors and go to a promised land, where he will be transformed into something new, a nation, a symbol, a people, a faith, and have his name changed to Abraham, the characters in the woods are propelled onto quests of their own. All of us are similarly called to make faith journeys from the relative safety and security of childhood, into the uncertainty of adulthood and the quest to live out and fulfill our divine purposes. To begin the quest requires courage and faith. Abram heard God’s call and set out for a Promised Land he had never seen just as the characters in “Into the Woods” set out into the shadows of uncertainty that await them in the Wood:
Into the woods, it’s time to go, I hate to leave, I have to, though. Into the woods – it’s time, and so I must begin my journey.
Into the woods and down the dell, the path is straight, I know it well. Into the woods, and who can tell, what’s waiting on the journey?
Into the woods, without delay, but careful not to lose the way. Into the woods, who knows what may be lurking on the journey?
SLIDE 9: LOSS OF INNOCENCE
The second truth encountered in the Woods is the archetype of the loss of innocence that we also find in the story of the snake in the third chapter of Genesis. Little Red Riding Hood expresses this loss of innocence after she is rescued from the belly of the wolf:
Mother said, “Straight ahead,” Not to delay or be misled. I should have heeded her advice… But he seemed so nice. And he showed me things many beautiful things, that I hadn’t thought to explore. They were off my path, so I never had dared. I had been so careful, I never had cared. And he made me feel excited – Well, excited and scared. And I know things now, many valuable things, that I hadn’t known before: Do not put your faith in a cape and a hood, They will not protect you the way that they should. And take extra care with strangers, even flowers have their dangers. And though scary is exciting, nice is different than good.
SLIDE 10: KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL
In Hebrew the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil means an intimate relationship with both Good and Evil. We cannot understand Good and Evil from experience and remain innocent. The loss of innocence then is part of the journey to adulthood. And in the loss of innocence we also encounter the third truth – the archetype of embracing responsibility – giving up the blame game. In Genesis when God discovers that Adam and Eve have eaten of the knowledge of Good and Evil God asks Adam, “Why did you eat from the tree I commanded you not to eat.”
And Adam replies, “Not my fault, the woman you created, she gave it to me.”
And when God asks Eve, “How come?” She blames the snake.
In the play into the Woods, when a giant climbs down a bean stalk and begins to “wreck havoc” upon the Kingdom, the residents begin to blame one another:
It’s because of you there’s a giant in our midst, and my wife is dead! But it isn’t my fault, I was given those beans! You persuaded me to trade away my cow for beans! And without those beans, there’d have been no stalk To get up to the giant in the first place! So, it’s your fault. And it isn’t mine at all.
SLIDE 12: EMBRACE RESPONSIBILITY
How often we worry about establishing blame, when all we can do is to embrace responsibility. And that leads us to the fourth truth, learning to our honor mistakes. None of us is perfect. Perhaps the Genesis metaphor does us a disservice, when Adam and Eve are projected as having fallen from grace after being created perfect and innocent. Instead maybe we can sing with the cast of “Into the Wood”:
SLIDE 13: HONOR MISTAKES
People make mistakes — Fathers, Mothers. People make mistakes, holding to their own, thinking they’re alone. Honor their mistakes — everybody makes. Fight for their mistakes. One another’s terrible mistakes.
Not only do we need to honor our own mistakes, but as part of becoming adults we can also honor the mistakes and short comings of our parents. Most of the time our parents were doing the best they could with what they had. After all our parents were only working with what they had been given by their parents. As much as I complained about my parenting when I was younger, when I finally matured enough to realize both of my father and mother had alcoholic and mentally ill fathers, did I appreciate what a benign childhood I had. We can change if we honor mistakes and stop blaming. When we embrace responsibility, then life can be different.
SLIDE 14: GOOD ENOUGH
And remember making life different will not make life perfect. Again one of the greatest disservices is having a metaphor that insists that perfection is our goal. Maybe perfection isn’t all that it is cracked up to be. Maybe rather than perfection we can think in terms of optimal, and perhaps we’ll even settle for “good enough.” We can be kind to ourselves and kind to others by not expecting too much.
SLIDE 15: COME TO TERMS WITH GRIEF
The fifth truth we can find in the woods is our need to come to terms with grief. We are not made forever. Our bodies grow old break down and eventually we die. The people whom we love do not live forever. And so in the song “No One Is Alone,” we come to the line, “Sometimes people leave you, half-way through the wood.” Even when we choose to journey together with someone on life’s path, we are still on separate journeys. No matter how long we spend together, there are still mornings when we wake up and wonder who that stranger is lying in the bed beside us. And even though we have pledged ourselves to one another to travel together, in all probability one of us will have to grieve for the other – one of us will have to continue the journey down the path without the other.
We can moan and groan and carry on in grief, when we come to the time of parting, but go on we must even when it feels like we are leaving part of ourselves behind. Coming to terms with grief is not only a preparation for the deaths of loved ones, grief is also a preparation for the letting go of our own lives.
SLIDE 16: NO ONE IS ALONE
Mother cannot guide you. Now you’re on your own. Only me beside you. Still, you’re not alone. No one is alone. Truly. No one is alone. Sometimes people leave you. Halfway through the wood. Others may deceive you. You decide what’s good. You decide alone. But no one is alone.
As the old spiritual says, “You have to walk this lonesome valley. You have to walk it by yourself. Oh nobody else can walk it for you. You have to walk it by yourself.” Each one of us walks our own path and yet we are not alone. God is with us. In life in death in life beyond death we are not alone. Thanks be to God.
SLIDE 17: ANOTHER ROAD INTO THE WOODS AND BEYOND
Each of us has to live our own lives. Each of us has to have the courage to set out on our own path. We have to make our own decisions. We have to grow up and lose our innocence. We have to make our own mistakes — embrace our responsibility and our grief. Nobody else can live our lives for us. We have to do it for ourselves. And yet we are promised that God walks with us into the Woods and beyond. For we are not alone.