The Wandering Way
Lent 1 – February 17, 2013
Luke 4: 1-12
Reverend Jan Wiley
(This sermon series uses not only scripture but the inspiration of the movie The Way starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, who also wrote the screenplay. It is an amazing movie of grief and anger but also of learning, forgiveness and redemption. I suggest you try to watch the movie during this Lenten season. It can be rented on Netflix, found at Blockbuster or purchased online).
Jesus himself went on pilgrimage. He wandered in the wilderness to prepare himself for the ministry to which he was uniquely called. He spent 40 days wrestling with the forces of temptation. In that wrestling, he clarified more clearly God’s vision for his life and especially the methods that he would not use and those he would use to call the people to repentance, to wholeness of life, to abundant life.
So often when we find ourselves wandering, unsure of who we are or where we are going, we think that God is absent in our lives – maybe ignoring us or at least silent. Yet the beginning words from Luke 4 are so instructive. ‘Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.’ Not only was the Holy Spirit present in the wilderness but Jesus was led there by the Spirit. And it was in the wilderness that Jesus had to face the difficulties of his journey and over time draw strength.
There are times that we too find ourselves on the wandering way – looking and searching for a path that will bring us closer to our truest and best self, to the whole person God calls us to be. And we can each take our own journey, for each journey is unique, yet we also take it together as we travel the season of Lent.
In the movie The Way, Tom Avery has arrived in the small town in the Pyrenees of southern France to claim his only son Daniel’s body killed in an accident. He discovers that his son died in bad weather on the first day while walking on the pilgrimage route called the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, an 800 kilometer walk to the Cathedral in that city.
We see in a brief flashback his son Daniel in the orange jacket as he receives his first stamp in his Camino passport as he begins the journey.
Show first clip of movie The Way now.
So we too are invited to be on pilgrimage this Lenten season which began four days ago when we were reminded of our mortality by the placing of ashes on our forehead. But we were also reminded that life is precious and fragile and that God calls us to live a purposeful life.
So whether you attended services on Ash Wednesday or not, I invite you to go on pilgrimage. To take these 40 days of Lent, and focus on one thing in your life that needs attention. Big or small, think of one thing that you would like to change about your life and walk a pilgrimage with that new direction in mind. Only you and God know what you might focus on. How you might re-orient your life in a way that would provide deeper meaning and wholeness. It might be an attitude or a specific way to be more physically healthy, or a different way to be in relationship with others. But today, think of what that focus might be. I ask you to pray today and ask God where you need to wander ? Can you dare to embark on a Lenten journey with a destination in mind? Can you imagine that God might lead you into the wilderness so that you could gain strength for a new direction?
Tom Avery sets off to claim his son’s body and return home. Yet the Spirit leads him into the wilderness of the Camino – the Way – where he embarks on his own personal journey in a way he never expected.
Play second clip of movie now.
Tom has an epiphany as he decides to walk the path his son intended to walk. He is totally unprepared for the journey. He can’t even get out of his room without knocking over the lamp. And we can only laugh when we see he begins by starting in the wrong direction. Yet there are others on the path who show him the way. And he turns around and follows them.
The Spirit may lead us into the wilderness but if we open our eyes we will see that we are rarely alone. Even as we wander, we discover others have been on the journey. We see the path worn down by the feet of those pilgrims who have gone before us.
Tom begins his journey alone but he was sent off by the police captain who again points him in the right direction. And the captain tells him that he too has lost a child. He has walked the path upon which Tom is just embarking – a journey of grief and loss. And he tells Tom a wise truth, “You walk the way only for yourself.’ And then, as Tom leaves the village yet again in the wrong direction, the captain points and says – “Tom, this is the way” – the Spirit guiding Tom on the first steps of what will be a long journey. And Tom finds the most poignant way imaginable to mark his journey, by leaving the ashes of his son Daniel along the way. And so they begin their journey, not always close in life, now intimately close on the Camino.
As you have wandered in your life, has the Spirit ever offered to you those who have traveled the road before you? Twelve Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous are exactly that. Those on the journey already, walk the journey for themselves but they are happy to walk beside others who share that particular path. But the spirit may provide others – prayer groups, a small group, a best friend, a new acquaintance, even an unexpected partner.
If you are going to embark on a journey this Lent, can you ask the Spirit to help you find a partner or a support system to help you? No matter what new direction you seek, there may be others who have gone that direction ahead of you who could help. Or someone who would just listen to you as you share the journey you intend to take. Who that might be? You can invite someone to walk beside you or you can wait to see who God will provide. But if you choose the second method, the wait and see method, you have to be open to see who God will present in your journey.
Tom started his journey intent on doing it alone. He was closed up, walled up in grief, unable to share much of himself, and angry when others invaded his space. Yet we will see how God provided for Tom in his wandering, how the Sprit led others in the wilderness right alongside him.
But the pilgrimage starts alone. In our own spirit. In our own heart. And we pray that God will help us identify some new direction that will lead us to a deeper sense of life and fulfillment. And don’t worry if your first steps or even ones in the middle lead you off course. Whenever we go to someplace new, we wander and get lost and get redirected and sometimes we discover an entirely new pathway we never expected. Embrace the wandering and trust the process. For if we travel with God, it is better to travel well than to arrive. The journey begins now. Let the Spirit lead you in the wilderness and point you in a new direction.
Look for companions along the way.
Embrace the unexpected.