The third of five homilies preached at the 2013 Kanuga Knitting and Quilting Conference...
Psalm 23; Luke 15:3-6
I had to ask for directions the first time I drove alone to our diocesan conference center. It's easy, I was told. Get off the interstate and follow the road through a four-way stop and over a train track. When you get to the place where there used to be a two-story house, turn left.
It's how we give directions in the south. If you want to know how to get anywhere, you're going to need a history lesson first, or you'll definitely get lost.
Of course no one asks for directions much anymore. We just type our destination into our phone or the car's computer and follow the little blue dot to wherever we need to go. But sometimes even Siri leads us astray, or we wander into an area the GPS doesn't know. In my mom's old car, the computer would give up and announce we were in "uncharted territory," which gave us a little thrill of adventure as we made our way out into the unknown.
Who knows why we, like that poor little sheep, lose our way. Maybe we get distracted as we go about our day, or perhaps we are too focused. Maybe we saw what we thought was a better way. Maybe we are seeking adventure, or, fearful, avoiding it. Maybe we get stuck while the rest of the flock, the rest of the world, moves on without us...however it happens, we find ourselves apart and alone and uncertain of where to turn next.
It happens in our handwork, too. There we are, with directions and charts and patterns printed out and plain to see, and we think we've followed them faithfully until our stitch count is suddenly off, or a seam has been sewn wrong, or we're holding the wrong color in our hands, and we have no idea how we got where we are.
God, like a shepherd...you guide me along trusted roads, our psalmist sang, rejoicing that lost doesn't mean lost forever. But God doesn't not stop at providing directions. God does not merely show us the way but is the way, does not merely point out the pattern but is the pattern. I am the way, the truth, and the life, Jesus said when his friends worried they would never find the place where he was going. The right pathway, the most trusted road, is a life lived like his, following such directions as love one another, forgive your enemies, feed my sheep, follow me. Directions like these will seem to take us off the world's beaten path, for the way of Christ winds through side streets and margins and alleyways and through the valley of the shadow of...but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
If you find yourself in uncharted territory today, if you feel a little lost, either in the pattern you are working or in the path of life you are walking, perhaps you are not so far from the way. The Lord is our shepherd, after all, and comes looking for us when we stray. As surely as there are people here to help you put one foot (or needle) in front of the other, so does God desire to show us the right path. Who knows, perhaps the right way lies precisely in having gone the wrong way a while and so having learned to look for and trust that our shepherd is near.
"Follow him," urged poet W.H. Auden. "He is the Way. Follow him through a land of unlikeness, and you will see rare beasts and have unique adventures. He is the Truth. Seek him the kingdom of anxiety. You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years. He is the Way..." Amen.
Artwork: Disclaimer...most of the knitting and quilting photographs included with these homilies are actually from the 2012 Kanuga Knitting and Quilting Retreat. This year I actually spent more time knitting than taking pictures.