Monday, August 10, 2009

Sermon from Sunday, August 9

Matthew 7:12-4
"In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

What I’ve Seen

I would like to begin by saying thank you. Our trip to Honduras last week would have been impossible without your support, your prayers, and your love. Shane, Dorothy and I did not go as individuals; we went as representatives of New Hope Presbyterian Church, and I am proud to say that our church here in the corner of Tennessee now has a relationship with an orphanage in the mountains of Honduras. God’s love truly can achieve marvelous things.

I would also like to give you a brief overview of what Honduras is like right now. I know that many of you were curious about the political situation and worried about our safety. I can say now that I am very glad we went; there was only one time in which I genuinely feared for our safety. We were riding in an open-wheeled all terrain vehicle and four of the mangiest dogs you have ever seen started chasing after us, each one looking more rabid than the next. At that moment I believe all of us were calculating the exact number of rabies shots we would need were that dog to sink its teeth into us. But, apart from that fear that gripped us, we were as safe as could be. The political turmoil did not affect us at all, for which I was grateful.

In today’s reading from Matthew, Jesus is speaking about the roads we all walk in this life. They are each different, and yet there are commonalities between them. Jesus places all of humanity onto one of two roads; there are those that choose to walk the wide and easy road of self-glorification, and there are those who read the Gospels and choose to walk that narrow, windy road, the one that causes us to sacrifice, that makes life hard at times, but ultimately is bathed in the glory of God and leads us to eternal life. The Christian life demands hard choices, for it demands that we glorify someone other than ourselves. Here at New Hope, and in all those churches seeking faithfulness, it is exciting to see how some of those decisions play out, how they chart a course forward along that narrow road. In this church, part of that road led to a faraway country, where a water filtration system was installed last week in Honduras. I’d like to tell you about the part of our road that I saw last week.

The roads are a particularly large part of the experience in Honduras. From the moment we landed in San Pedro Sula, I knew I wasn’t in my comfort zone anymore. I understood little of what was being said. There are no big terminals that stretch for miles; there are four gates, and no air conditioning. I started to sweat the moment I walked into baggage claim. From there we threw our 6 bags, weighing 294 pounds, into the back of a pickup truck and began our journey. The roads there are not what we are accustomed to. There are no eight lane expressways. The main road traversing Honduras is two lanes, winding up through the mountains. At points where traffic slows for construction, boys and girls selling pastries press their faces against your windows, hoping against hope that some combination of pity and hunger might overcome you. The last six miles of our journey took forty five minutes, bouncing over potted roads, where often the ditch was the smoothest place to drive. Everywhere people walked, or sat, or led ox carts, on the side of the road. Trucks rumbled by with people piled in the back, desperate for a ride. This was the path that led to the orphanage.

Once there, our path joined with the missionaries and children living there in the mountains. It is as beautiful a setting as you can imagine, bordered by the mountains with clean air blowing in. But no clean water. Everyone is suspicious of the water, wondering what microscopic things might lurk in the depths of the well. We spent the next two days in a PVC-glue induced haze, putting together a system that would filter and purify the water for the residents of the orphanage and the village outside their walls. On Saturday evening, the moment of truth, we finally turned it on for the first time.

And boy, did it leak. If you want to know how to glue PVC, feel free to ask us, because we’re experts now. Unfortunately, we weren’t when we arrived. We spent most of Sunday cutting apart pipe and re-gluing PVC so that water would not seep out of so many joints. By the time we were able to join them for worship, we were pleased to have a system that only dripped.

Worship was another eye-opening experience. The people walk from miles around to join in song and prayer. Some hobble along, crippled by various ailments. Many bring their cell phones because their homes do not have power. All sing with joy when given the opportunity to praise their Lord and Savior.

That evening we were producing clean water, to the delight of those in the orphanage. No more running out of bottled water. No more trips into town to buy water. They had clean water, right their on the campus, with plans to run a pipe out to the fence so that all those nearby might have clean water.

On Monday morning we were taken to a nearby school so that we might have a glimpse of what the next step of our path in Honduras might be. About seventy children crowd into three dusty schoolrooms for four hours a day. The water is filthy, coming from a nearby reservoir that often has rats and snakes in the intake. Once they even found a dead cow in there. The children are constantly complaining of stomach pains. They need clean water. They need to see the love of God made real in our service. They long for us to join our path with theirs, to walk a while with them, so that we each might learn from one another.

This is what I’ve seen. It was a joy to take this part of the path, to walk with these men and women, children of God in Honduras. They welcomed us into their home, invited us to walk with them, to eat with them, to be in the presence of God together. They are delighted that God called us to bring clean water, and they are excited for us to return next year.

It might not be easy. It is not the wide and straight road. But I believe that this is the road that God called us upon. To love and serve our neighbors, our brothers and sisters. Each of us cannot go to Honduras. But we can all take part. We can pray for the missionaries, for the children in need. We can work here in the church, preparing for next year, helping discern where God is calling us. Perhaps you would like to go and see next year, for your own path to lead south, to a place dramatically different, where God is at work in new and different ways, but using the same type of people: those willing to lay down themselves, to pledge themselves to a higher way, a narrow road, one that winds and twists and turns, but ultimately praises God. That is who we are as Christians: we are called to serve, in varied and different ways. We are called to go forward, as the hands and feet of God, and glorify our Savior, serving God by serving others. I am overjoyed that the path of this church, of this particular community, includes Honduras as a point on our common walk. May we continue to go forward, placing one foot in front of the other, with our vision always focused on Christ.

Let us pray.

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