Thursday, August 11

The Labyrinth of Faith , Sermon August 7, 2005

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Psalm 105
Romans 10:5-15
Matthew 14:22-33

This week two of the lectionary readings give us a sort of snap shot of particular points along the journey of faith. They are dark pictures. Frightening pictures if we simply dwell on the moments our readings describe. The disciples do as Jesus tells them, only to find themselves facing a terrible and life threatening storm. Then Jesus shows up in the most unnerving way, walking on water like an apparition. Peter shows his faith by walking to Jesus on the water only to findhimself falling into the water. Joseph being a good son and brother finds himself sold into slavery. Most of us know these stories and we know things work out. Peter and the disciples dont drown. Joseph ends up second only to Pharaoh in Egypt. But I wonder if our sense of the whole story distorts these dark snapshots, and thus keeps us from fully comprehending what the journey of faith is really like: its hard to see where faith is taking us at times. Following God in faith leads us into storms or into dark pits and being taken where we didnt plan to go. At times the path seems dark and overgrown, and the person of faith asks God did you really intend me to go this way? The straight and narrow sometimes seems crooked winding and confusing. Our goal seems just out of reach and yet we seem to be turned down a road that takes us further and not closer to where we thought God was taking us. Sometimes the journey of faith seems to be a labyrinth.
Labyrinths were set up in the floors of medieval cathedrals so that people who could not make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem could go on pilgrimage. They are then compact pilgrimages. They symbolized not only the pilgrimage to Jerusalem but the life and pilgrimage of faith. Like in a sense the pilgrimage to Jerusalem was itself a symbolic journey, the people of Gods journey towards the New Jerusalem.
This past week I visited North Park Seminary and I happened upon a labyrinth set up in one of the larger Classrooms. As I prepared to walk the labyrinth I found I could not by studying the pattern on the floor discern the path to the center of the labyrinth. Then as I walked the labyrinth the part of the labyrinth I had taken was clear but what was ahead still remained indiscernible. If I focused on the center a mild frustration emerged as I seemed to come close only to be taken away from the center. The path of the labyrinth took me several times nearly to the same point ias where I had begun. Lastly at the point that I was the furthest from the center of the labyrinth I was in fact nearly at the center.
Through our Genesis text and Gospel text today we find ourselves given a glimpse into two different journeys of faith. Yet for both these moments dont seem very promising. Dont we know these moments: moments that look dark and uncertain, moments that dont seem to be leading anywhere. Have you been in moments on your journey of faith that seem like they could spell the end.
The reading of the story of Genesis given by the common lectionary leaves out the reasons Josephs brothers were so jealous and enraged with him. Joseph is not only the favorite of his father which might be irritating enough to his older brothers but Joseph himself has the grandiose dreams . Joseph has been told in dreams that he will lead his brothers and that his families life would depend on him and his leadership. Josephs dreams are seemingly dashed as he sits at the bottom of a dry well and then is sold to slave traders and lead to Egypt. Surely, Joseph didnt see this set of events as part of the fulfillment of those dreams. Yet, we who know the whole story (and we get the end of the story next week), know that it is by being enslaved and then being faithful allowing God to be at work even when it seemed that God was absent that finally lead Joseph to interpret dreams God gave to Pharaoh concerning a massive famine that was to come and Joseph was set in charge of preparing for the famine from the several years of abundant harvest. And through this the whole people of God were saved from starvation as Josephs family comes to Joseph unwittingly for food.
Of course the Gospels are filled with the disciples following Jesus not knowing where they were going, frightful times like on the see of Galilee and glorious times like at the transfiguration in which they saw the Glory of Christ, amazing healings, feeding of countless people with just a few loaves and a few fish.
When Jesus called his disciples when people followed Jesus they did not know where it would lead them. Jesus call was to follow, and he didnt always say where he was going, and when he did it was not clear to those he told what Jesus meant.
I do not know where each of you are at in your journey of faith, but I am sure we have all experienced dark or confusingtimes. Perhaps you are there right now, perhaps not. But where ever you are at, know that the journey of faith is a labyrinth, at times it takes you back to the beginning, at times the path doesnt seem to be taking you where you thought you were calledto go. These moments are part of the life of faith. Peter recognized that as he stepped out of the boat to join Jesus on the water, as far as we can tell from the whole story of Joseph, Joseph new that his life was in the hands of God, and that though he could not see it Gods call and intent would not be thwarted, and so he kept hope even in the darkest moments of his life, a slave and then a prisoner.
The life of faith is after all labyrinthine