God Bless the Broken Road


One evening this past week I found myself playing games on Facebook. So, there are these new game modules (if you are a facebooker I’m sure you saw them – or saw other people’s results, or you may even have played yourself) where you click the button and it scans your profile or something and then spits out information about you like… “What are the things that define you?”

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I did – quite a few starting with – “The Things That Define Me.” (I was told after the 8:00a worship service that chocolate is definitely NOT a weakness.) Next up – “What’s My Problem.” Then I did “Which Beautiful Word Will Define Your 2019” (It was love, by the way. Awwww.) And finally, I did “3 Songs About You.”

These were my results – working from bottom to top – I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor, which if you know anything about me at all, you know that is pretty appropriate. Let It Be by The Beatles, which is my ALL TIME FAVORITE SONG EVER! and my eternal reminder that sometimes I just need to let go and let things be. And last but not least – or first according to Facebook, God Bless the Broke Road by Rascal Flatts.

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This song was the one that made me stop and think – it’s a song that I love, but I had kind of forgotten about, and hadn’t heard in years! Given that it was released in November of 2004, I guess that’s not surprising. The song is 14 years old. (Some of you are feeling really old right now, aren’t you? – Yeah, I was too when I looked up that fact.)

So, naturally, I’ve pretty much listened to the song on repeat all week. The first verse and chorus are:

I set out on a narrow way many years ago
Hoping I would find true love along the broken road
But I got lost a time or two
Wiped my brow and kept pushing through
I couldn’t see how every sign pointed straight to you

That every long lost dream lead me to where you are
Others who broke my heart, they were like northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms

This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

These words speak not only to relationships, but to many aspects and many facets in our lives. There are times when things don’t go our way. Hearts get broken. Bad things happen. Fear, isolation, depression, and desperation set in and we are entrenched in our individual broken roads.

As we enter into the season of Advent, it’s easy to get swept up in the glitter and the glamour and the excitement of Christmas, and forget what this liturgical season is really about.

Although it is certainly an aspect of it, Advent is not just a four-week exploration of waiting for a baby to arrive. Advent instead is the annual time to consider God’s coming in every way and every time possible:

In a meal, by a word, as a light, in the assembly gathered, as a complete surprise, following a long wait, in every space and place that our broken roads have taken us.  

Jesus addresses this in our Gospel this morning. He is speaking to the disciples and has just foretold the Temple destruction (which if you remember from a few weeks ago is a particularly cheery passage!) and now he gets even more weird and ominous… saying things like: “There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.” “People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming” “the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

This text can be hard to understand or even downright frightening if it’s taken out of context. And it is – A LOT – as many attempt to read and translate it literally. The problem is that it was never intended to be read literally because it is what is known as Apocalyptic Literature. 

Apocalyptic literature is a genre of prophetical writing that developed in post-Exilic Jewish culture and was very popular among early Christians. As a genre, apocalyptic literature details the authors’ visions of the end times as revealed by an angel or other heavenly messenger. (In this case – Jesus.)

The object of this literature, in general, was to address and/or solve the difficulties connected with the righteousness of God and the suffering condition of God’s people on earth. It was meant to poetically and cryptically bolster the Christians as they traveled their broken roads.   

In his blog this week, Bishop Mike stated that: “The ultimate point of this passage is Jesus’ promise of – ‘When these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’ Jesus is promising to always be with us.”

So, the question in this text is not “when or how will this happen?” but instead “how should I be living in the meantime?” How can and do we live in response to the world’s brokenness? War, Violence, Systemic Racism, Injustice, Food Insecurity, Gender Bias, Climate Change, Persecution based on one’s sexual orientation… the list goes on and on. What do we do? How do we navigate these broken roads? And how do we walk alongside those who are also navigating these broken roads?

Jesus’ answer to this question is simple and it’s included in his promise to be present with us: “Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”  Another way to interpret this is “look up.”  

When I was in grade school my older brother, Gabriel, and I used to ride our bicycles to school every day. Gabe was notorious for looking at the ground as we rode our bikes. He was concerned with hitting a rock or a crack that would cause him to lose his balance and fall. (He wasn’t very good at riding a bicycle.) He rarely hit a rock or a crack, but what he did hit almost EVERY DAY was a stop sign. He was so concerned with what was on the ground that he would run into the exact same stop sign every day. One day as my family was driving past this sign, which at this point was slanted at an angle and super wobbly from all of my brother’s accidents, my dad said – “Wow… I wonder what happened to that stop sign.” I replied… “GABE! Gabe happened to the stop sign.”  

My brother needed to Look Up as he journeyed down the road, and so do we. We can’t find Jesus at the end of our broken roads if we are constantly staring down at them. We can’t bury our heads in the sand and ignore everything going on around us. We can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel if we are constantly staring at the train track.

We need to look around us and see the world and the needs of ourselves as well as those of our neighbors. The ominous and foreboding events, our broken roads, according to Jesus, are actually signs of our redemption.

David Lose stated that: “Often we forget the promise of redemption because fear distracts us. Fear drives us to forget who we are. Fear causes us to see people in need as our enemy. Fear pushes us to place securing our safety and comfort above meeting the basic needs of others in distress. Fear is more dangerous than violence because it can lead us to forget our deepest identity and betray our most cherished values.  Jesus reminds us that he is Lord. We trust that he will in time bring all things to good. In the meantime we stand together in courage and compassion treating all persons with the love of God we have known in him.

As we prepare and anticipate Jesus’ coming this Advent – do not fear the broken road, because Jesus is always with us and is always our final destination.

I set out on a narrow way many years ago
Hoping I would find true love along the broken road
But I got lost a time or two
Wiped my brow and kept pushing through
I couldn’t see how every sign pointed straight to you

That every long lost dream lead me to where you are
Others who broke my heart, they were like northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms

This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

This Advent Season – may God bless each and every one of our broken roads and remind us to look up and to help others as they journey their own broken roads – so that all may be reminded that we are never lost and that we do not wander our broken roads alone. God is always with us. Amen.

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