“GETTING PARSONAL” August 2018
By: Rev. William D. Ingraham
If you’re going nowhere in particular, any road will get you there. I have no idea who first said that. I’ve done a little bit of research on the sentence (meaning, I googled it!), and came up with nothing. It seems like something I’ve heard my whole life — one of those “common wisdom” kind of phrases that everyone has heard, and many have said. So you’d think I could find it somewhere online, right?
My strongest memory of it comes from a sermon I once heard, when the line featured prominently. It was a transitional phrase that took the preacher (and his congregation) from the dark and troubled corner he had painted us into, out into the well lit path of God’s guiding love and mercy. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the details of the sermon. Only that turning phrase has stuck with me, and it has persisted in my thinking for decades. The sentence applies equally to individuals as to institutions. Without focus or direction, we might end up anywhere. Sometimes that’s OK. It doesn’t always matter where we end up. But at other times, it isn’t OK.
One of my best friends was Phyllis Southard, who died a few years ago. When I was in graduate school, we lived within a few blocks of each other. We shared a love of taking long drives. When we each had a block of free time, one of us would pick up the other, and off we would go. The outing usually started with the question: which way? The other would pick a compass point: north, south, east or west. The general direction declared, the driver would start off on a road that headed that way. Sometimes we would traverse familiar territory, but as often as not, we covered new ground. And as we drove, we talked, told stories, sang, prayed, laughed and cried. I cherish those wandering, wonderful drives to this day, and miss Phyllis still. We seldom went anywhere in particular, but we always made it to remarkable places.
Sometimes wandering is detrimental. There are moments that we need focus in order to accomplish a particular task, to meet a real need or reach an important goal. In such moments, not just any road will do. In those times, we need the right road, though discerning which road is right can be a challenging task. And when a group of people is involved, we not only have to discern the road, but also to stay together on that road.
As a church, the more clear we are about where we are going, the better the chance that we will get there, and get there together. With a common focus, we can encourage one another, supporting and affirming each other as we move along. Holding our common goal before us, we all move in the same direction, focused on the same compass point and aspiring to the same end. And with that common focus, we draw others who share that vision to join us along the way. We not only get somewhere in particular, but we get there stronger than we were before we began the journey.
Our church has been here a long, long time. In different eras from our past, we have moved in particular and varying directions as a community, all the while seeking to serve God in this community. Each generation takes responsibility for the life and ministry of the church, doing the best they can to make the love and compassion of God known. The tradition continues today. Together, we aspire to move along a common road, working to make life better, both within our church and in the larger community. We offer our time and our talent, our treasure and our greatest aspirations, so that we can do good, right here, right now.
We’re not on “just any road.” We’re on a very particular road — a road that God has laid out before us, with the teachings of Jesus and the guidance of the Spirit. And I, for one, have no doubt we will get where we’re meant to be. Together.
See you in church!