Going from Council Bluffs to the University of Nebraska Hospital was always a pretty quick and direct trip. Most days it took less then ten minutes. Coming home on the other hand, was interesting. Going, the roads were fairly logical and clearly marked, but coming home, you had to know your way. Not only did you have to do a u turn, you had to know the right entrance in a maze of roads, all of which looked more like driveways then onramps to the interstate! However, if you did not take this route it took you twice as long.
I often think about this when I encounter a text like the Isaiah text that we have this Sunday. The first time I had to make the trip and was cursing out the commute to a fellow pastor, he told me of the better way. The first time I tried to find it on my own I found myself horribly lost. The next time, he came with me, and until I moved away that was the way to go.
The thing is that the joy and path to Christ is in front of us; the problem is that as plain to see as it might be, it is hard to sort out. Often the highway to God is not clearly defined, and what makes it worse is that when we get off track it makes it harder to find our way. This is why faith can never be a totally individual expression. Often we need to have one another to help us to find our way, and point out where the path we are on might just be the wrong one.
When we get onto the right way, not only is it clear, but also it is obvious. One of the many problems of society that Isaiah is speaking to is that people have come to a place where they have lost their way. In fact, they have chosen to follow a pathway that leads away from God, like going south when you need to go north.
Again, though like last week, the prophecy that Isaiah gives is just as awesome and powerful, but it also has a requirement for you. You have to find the pathway and you have to choose to enter and you have to live into that choice.
It kind of makes me think of what happens with children and their parents from time to time. A friend of mine was frustrated one afternoon because he brought his pre-teen daughter to the amusement park that she had been asking to go to for months. It was going to be a fun father-daughter excursion. However, the girl was so determined to get on a specific ride she threw a tantrum when she found out that it was broken. Her foul mood hung over for the rest of the day until they finally just went home.
They had every possibility of having a great time, but the girl chose a different path, letting the disappointment cloud her ability to see the fun and joy she could have been having. Often when we wonder why God is not here and where God might be it is because we let ourselves get so distraught and overwhelmed with our current situations that we do not take the time to regroup and find our way back to the right path.
As we get ever closer to Christmas, we must think of how we are preparing our hearts and souls to experience God. We need to take stock of the path that we are on and ask if we are going in the right direction. We also have to sit back and see if our current state is clouding our ability to see God.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen