Navigating the Divine Way
Text: John 14: 6
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Several years ago Heidi and I traveled to New England in the fall to experience that part of the country during the fall color season. It was a photographers dream and I still remember our time there like it was just last month.
After we arrived at the airport in Boston we had to rent a car. We took a shuttle bus to the rental agency and proceeded to wait in line for our turn to pick up our car. When I got to the desk, the attendant there went through all the usual things, and then asked me if we would like a car with a navigation system in it. It cost extra, so I declined, but then she told me that was all they had left, and I was going to get one anyway – at no charge.
It took us a few miles of playing with the system to really begin to see how it worked, but after a day or two, we became quite adept at programming it and listening for the voice that would tell us where to turn or what exit to take. It was a female voice, so we named the system Rhoda. It was loads of fun and I was very impressed with how the GPS system could locate us, even in some fairly remote areas – it always knew where we were. Of course this was several years ago, before GPS systems were on every smart phone and as common as a cup of coffee.
One of the more interesting features of this particular system, is when you were programming a destination, it often gave you a choice of routes. There were options you could select based on time, scenery, highway driving and so on. The system would then create a route to your destination based on the preferences you had selected. It was very cool. Google maps still does this and gives you a choice of several different routes to a destination.
As we enter into the second week of Advent, the focus of our attention turns toward the symbolism of the Second Advent candle. There are a number of different traditions surrounding the symbolism of the Advent candles, but one of the traditions identifies the second Advent candle as Christ the Way. As I began to think about Christ the Way, and pondered the scripture I read a few minutes ago, I remembered our experience with the GPS navigation system. I remembered that we always were given options.
As I thought more about this, I could recall an incident when someone stopped their car to ask a group of people I happened to be with if the knew the way to a particular restaurant in the area. Of course, we all knew the way; but when we began to answer, one person’s description on how to get there varied considerably from another person’s description. It was chaos for a few minutes because everyone in the group had their own idea as to how to get to the restaurant. Soon a discussion of the best way erupted among the group and the poor bewildered driver who needed directions was totally confused. Finally, we got the driver the directions he needed, but it was evident there was more than one way to get to the restaurant.
Within the Christian faith tradition, I believe we have a problem. We have a problem with exclusivity and superiority. The scripture that I read a few minutes ago seems to indicate there is only one way to a divine relationship. And Jesus is quoted as saying he is that way. I believe it is important for us to truly comprehend what is being said here and how we can receive the message.
In the Buddhist faith tradition, there are passages in the sacred text of that tradition that speak of a finger pointing to the moon. There are warnings also, that one is not to become pre-occupied with the finger, rather the focus should be on the moon. The Buddha himself considered his position in life to be one of the finger pointing to the moon, but not the moon itself.
The same is true of the person of Jesus, I believe. With his birth and life and eventual execution, Jesus pointed us in the way we should go. Too often that way is described as narrow and very, very specific. I don’t believe that was the intent of Jesus, nor do I believe that is the intent of this scripture.
In order for us to experience the Divine fully, it often requires someone else to show us the way. Sometimes it is an event or an occasion that shows us the way. It can be the birth of a child or a tragedy or crisis in our life – many things can show us the way.
I believe what Jesus intended in this scripture was the fact that he was pointing the way – and everyone needs to be pointed in the right direction. Everyone needs to be helped along the way. That help for many is the person of Jesus, for others it is a finger pointing to the moon.
As experience in real life has proven, there is always more than one way. Whether it is a GPS system, your smart phone, Google maps or a group of people trying to give directions, there is always more than one way. As we celebrate Christ the Way this Advent season, let us ponder all the ways that Jesus leads us into relationship with the Divine. Let’s focus on the coming of the person of Jesus into this world and the many ways he represents.
Go in peace, go with God and go your own way. Amen.