Sunday, October 23, 2016
Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost

Thom. Probst, Guest Preacher

“A Fork in the Road”

Proverbs 4:18-27 & Matthew 7:12-24

May the meditations of my heart and the words of my mouth be a testament to you, Oh Lord my strength, my redeemer and my teacher.

“It is a pity that the fine day should ever do any harm. So say the Irish, as they look with rapture on their emerald isle, when the sunshine turns the grass into green velvet, and the hummocks of the bog, in the morning mist, make a silver island as in a sea of pearl.

We felt like this recently when we drove up the Island, on an amber-coloured afternoon, with blue haze filling the valleys, and wrapping the mountains. There was a sweet smell of burning leaves and ripening fruit in the air, and everywhere we looked we could see beauty. The poplar trees rippled with gold coins. In the orchards, trees bent under their weight of apples and pears.

We drove over country roads that wind and loop, up and down, as they run past little houses set securely in sheltered spots away from the turmoil of life. We saw pumpkin and squash in the fields and contented Jersey cows turned out to graze on the little fields of alfalfa. Hardly a dog barked, so peaceful was the air of departing summers, and even the crows on the fence sat motionless like strings of jet beads.

When we stopped at a filling station, with a bed of geraniums in front, and window boxes aflame with nasturtiums, we could find no one to sell us gas, and were about to drive on, feeling sure that the people were down on the shore reading poems about Indian summer, but as we hesitated a young woman in a flowered smock appeared and before she attended to our needs turned down the radio.

“You certainly came at the right time,” she said, as she counted out the change. “I came up to get the news. We are all anxious to hear about the submarine reported to have been seen on this coast. It’s hard to believe that anything like that could happen in these peaceful waters. But no one is safe now.”

We stayed to listen, too, and so the spell of the peaceful afternoon was broken, and the fine day shattered. We were back again to reality.

And the sea, the dimpling and circling sea, rolling listlessly upon the sand, where the children on this Saturday afternoon were digging clams, ceased to be a playground and became a place of evil, where ships could sink and men drown. Already, it is being patrolled and watched, fishermen have been armed with guns, and so have become another faction in our defenses.

As we drove away, the radio called out that another British cargo ship had been torpedoed in undesignated waters, and half the crew were missing.

When we arrived at our destination and sat in our friend’s lovely garden looking out on the opalescent sea where the setting sun warmed and brightened the shadowy hull of a passing boat, all of our talk was of these crushing times and what it means to be at war.

“We have never really been at peace,” said the doctor. “There is no peace when hatred still smoulders in people’s hearts. No one country can crush another, but we have not learned that yet, even we, who call ourselves civilized.”

We asked him what he meant when he used that word “civilized,” and the definition he gave was a good one.

“You can tell a civilized man or woman by their treatment of those who are in their power; who recognizes the rights of those who have not the power to enforce their rights. A nation is civilized which cares for its minorities and sees that nothing prevents their progress and liberty of thought and action.

“An individual is civilized who knows that all people are entitled to the privileges which he enjoys, who pays even his small debts and obligations, knowing his failure to pay would work a hardship to someone, who perhaps has no way of forcing the payment. A woman is civilized who recognizes in her own children’s right to an education, good food and happiness, the claims of all children to the same privileges.

“In other words, civilization is the definite working of the Golden Rule.”

This column first appeared in the Victoria Daily Times on Oct. 14, 1939 written by Nellie McClung a Canadian feminist, politician, author, and social activist *Note – two years later a Japanese submarine would fire it’s deck gun onto targets on Vancouver Island.

In Matthew today Jesus exhorts us… “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” We know this as he Golden Rule.

Like I shared with the keiki today life is often riddled with forks in the road. As individuals and Americans we are faced with these decisions of which fork to take. Also like the second scenario with the keiki we seldom know what lies down each of these forks…how far will it take us? What pitfalls lie ahead? What are the consequences of choosing one over the other?

We think of ourselves as citizens of the 21st century to be terrifically advanced and highly civilized. But I wonder sometimes have we really evolved any from our prehistoric ancestors. Watching or reading the news from Syria, Yemen, North Korea, Haiti and even here in the United States really makes me scratch my head.

The last time I was privileged to share my thoughts I spoke about “Lifelong Learning as a Christian.” An underlying theme was thinking globally but acting locally to effect change. I fervently believe in this philosophy. Each week we pray for our enemies, we pray for an end to gun violence, we pray for the victims of war and violence here and abroad BUT what do we do about it here in our island paradise? And no, I’m not asking anyone to step into the line of fire or physically place yourself in jeopardy.

However, I am saying as individuals, as a community and as a nation we must do more and talk less, act more and discuss less and in terms of the Golden Rule live it not just profess it!

In Matthew Jesus tells us to be like the man who built his house on rock that withstood the storms not the man who built his house on sand that succumbed to the storm. Jesus is our rock and on him we must build our lives because with him as our foundation whatever we build will stand through time regardless of the storms that come our way.

As the skipper of the M/V Theodore Bear for over 25 years I piloted her through many a rough sea in the waters of the northwest. There were times when I was faced with choices (forks in my watery road). Each time I tried to make the best, most informed and researched choice. After 25 years she looked good but there were a few scars to show when I made the wrong choice.

As an adult I also carry the scars both physical and metaphysical of choosing one fork in the road over another. I don’t suppose, for a moment, I am alone. I tread a road to whatever is my final reward knowing I am the product of these many choices.

Further on in the Book of Matthew, we are told that when the Son of Man comes in his glory he will sit on his throne:

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

I fervently hope and pray that at one of these forks, the choice I make will mean something, that I will make a difference in one life. Let me help someone to achieve a goal, improve the lot of one individual, let me put the Golden Rule into action right here on Maui in my little corner of the world. Let me be a sheep on the right hand of God’s throne.

As in the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


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