The Road Ahead

More often than not our attempts to navigate the road ahead don’t make the news.

Whether they are personal struggles, family matters, or church decisions, however, they are just as real and of no less concern to God.

Each of us could tell stories about the questions we face, the challenges we confront, and the opportunities that lie ahead of us.

Most of us have been taught to attack the road ahead with power, strength, and accomplishment.

We work to be rich so we can have what we want.

We seek power so we can take what we want.

We try to argue so we can be proven right.

We fight and compete in order to win.

Any of that sound familiar? Ever tried those ways of getting through life?

Those attitudes fill our social media feeds and make headlines, but they are based on the idea that we are self-made men and women, who must look out for ourselves because no one else will.

But that’s a lie. And Jesus’ life and teaching fly in the face of that lie.

Jesus offers a different way of facing the road ahead.

We don’t face the road ahead through power, strength, or accomplishment.

And we don’t face the road ahead just by doing things the way we’ve always done them.

Facing the road ahead isn’t about overcoming circumstances or other people.

It’s about overcoming ourselves.

Jesus’ strategy for facing the road ahead can be found right here in today’s Gospel, in the beatitudes:

Blessed are the poor in spirit.

Blessed are those who mourn.

Blessed are the meek.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Blessed are the merciful.

Blessed are the pure in heart.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.

This is how we face the challenges, the uncertainties, and the opportunities of life.

This is how we face the road ahead.

The beatitudes aren’t about building up and accomplishing.

They’re about letting go and surrendering.

We are called to be poor in spirit.

That means we don’t seek everything for ourselves. Instead, we make room for God and others. Our worth is not measured by the positions we hold, the power we have, or the possessions we own.

We are called to mourn.

That means we grieve and weep. Jesus did. It’s the way of a soft and compassionate heart, and lets us feel the hurt, pain, and needs of others as our own.

We are called to be meek.

It’s not the same as being weak. It means don’t take up all the space in a room. We’re humble, neither making more nor less of ourselves than we really are.

We are called to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

This means we strive for what is right, for deep and meaningful relationships, for the well-being of others, for justice everywhere and for everyone.

We are called to be merciful.

This means we seek to live with tenderness, graciousness, gentleness, kindness, unconditional love, self-restraint. The world needs mercy, don’t you think?

We are called to be pure in heart.

This means we seek to let go of fear, anger, jealousy, resentment, comparison, competition, and judgments. We seek to be wholehearted and offer all that we are and all that we have. The pure heart is a lover’s heart.

We are called to be peacemakers.

This means we seek to heal the pain in the world. Or at least to not add to the pain. Let there be no violence in our thoughts, words, or actions. We follow the one who is the Prince of Peace.

We may even be called to be persecuted for righteousness sake.

There may be times when we are called to step up and speak out, to challenge the status quo. The world needs people to speak God’s words and dream God’s dreams when we’ve forgotten or denied them. You’ll feel lonely doing it, but you are never alone.

I can’t promise you much, but I can tell you this. We will wrestle and struggle with these beatitudes every day of your life – not just to do them but to become them.

Every one of us who commits to this way of life has experienced struggle and wrestling.

We’ve been tempted to take a different way. And some days we took that other way.

We’ve heard the voices – other’s as well as our own – that say this is crazy, it’s not practical, it makes no sense.

We’ve felt the powers of this world push back: wealth, power, success, security, comfort, popularity, approval.

And it seems the road ahead would be easier if we just went another way. 

And yet, here we are.

The start of a new year, the annual meeting today, a new vestry, a new diocese.

The road ahead lies before us.

And we get to decide how we want to travel this road together.