May 24, 2020
(Acts 1:1-11; Matthew 28:16-20)
Another week has passed. Another week of Covid-19 restrictions and concerns. Another week of many unemployed and worrying how long it will last and whether to chose mortgage over food.
We have been restricted to stay at home throughout the entirety of Easter, virtually as if we have yet to leave Lent. We never got to celebrate the great day of Resurrection, and here we are at the Ascension, which we also cannot celebrate. Another week with my feeble attempt at a short “sermon” to fill a little void. I am not good at these short exoteric sermons, however neither are any of us good at staying home, being ill or unemployed.
As some of you know, my episcopal coat of arms motto from a well-known poem reads, “And it was then I carried you.” It comes from the Footprints in the Sand poem. It postulates that when we look back over our life as if our life were a path of footprints in sand, that we remark to Christ that we sometimes only see one set of prints instead of two and we wonder why Jesus seemingly “abandoned” us during the worst periods of our life. And Jesus responds to correct us by telling us it wasn’t our singular footprints we look back and see, but His! He was carrying us!
We could look at life in Christ a little deeper – or maybe, differently is a better word, while still using the sand analogy.
Let’s assume for a moment that we are in the desert in Western California and I were to ask any one of you to look out over the plain of sand and dunes and asked you to start walking, but to be sure you walked in a straight line, for say, oh, maybe 5 minutes, whilst I stand still and do not move. After that 5-minute interval, I yell (or probably call you on your cell phone, a 5-minute walk could make it hard to hear a “yell”) to “stop!” Now I ask you to turn around and look.
Now, you were sure that you walked in a straight line but discovered that you veered considerably to the right. One could, I suppose, argue that as long as it was a straight line to the right, it was still a straight line, but let’s assume a straight line was directly forward of where I was standing while you walked. That said, you did not walk in a straight line, though you made a concerted effort to do so.
Now there is a little story or parable of king and three neighboring princes. The king issued a challenge to them, that whomever among them could, over a long journey of varying landscapes, walk a straight line to the king’s castle would have the right to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
So, the first prince starts out, looking to his right and to his left to ensure he did not veer off his course. However, like you, the further he got, the more off course he ended up.
The second prince determined to look down, to keep his eyes on his feet, making sure every step followed in the same path as the step before it. However, he too went off course.
Now the third prince started out and he neither looked to the left or to the right, nor did he look down upon his feet. But, at the end, it was discovered that he walked in a straight line. Everyone wanted to know how he did it, and he said, “All I did was look into the far distance to the light on the crown of the castle tower. I didn’t look at my path or the landscape to my right or left. I just kept my eyes on that light and kept pressing forward to that light until I arrived there.”
This, my friends, is the way to walk with God. We are called to walk a straight path to God. This can be a challenging journey over varying landscapes and changing circumstances of life. Sometimes, we have to pause and do our best to sometimes not focus on our circumstances or our walk. It is beneficial to fix our eyes on the destination, regardless of the surroundings, mountains, valleys, highs and lows, even regardless of our own walk and footsteps.
We should fix our eyes on the Eternal – on God – and press forward, always onward and closer to this goal. And when we do so, we will end up there – and straight will be our footprints in the sand, whether we see one set of prints or two.
Like the Apostles, now that Jesus has Ascended, our goal is to walk the path of His teachings and example. We want to follow a straight path to Him, and we find there are times we have veered to the right or left, and even sometimes ended up full circle. We can get frustrated at times, but in the end what must we do?
We must simply allow Jesus to carry us when we struggle along the path. The path is not always easy, but like the third prince, if we keep our eyes on the light – the light of Christ – we too shall make it.
This Covid-19 virus is one of those landscapes that is challenging our walk in the sand, but walk we must continue to do. We must never lose sight of the fact that we must still walk. It is hard, sometimes with a wall seemingly in the way, but this too we must go over.
Let us take some time this week to ask Our Blessed Lord to show us, not only our path, but that He is there by our side to carry us if we need. He never deserts us. Let us ask Him for an end to this terrible epidemic, that medical science will win the cause; that fewer and fewer unnecessary deaths will take place; that people will return to jobs and food on their plates. That on this Memorial Day those who have fought and died to defend our great nation, be remembered and rest in peace eternal.
Let us know, that although Our Blessed Lord has indeed Ascended, He is only away from our physical sight, but indeed nearer to us than when He walked the earth. By His Ascension, our salvation is assured.
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel