Rev. Dr. Ed Goode, Christ Church UCC Fort Thomas
I have walked this specific trail many times. But when I walked it two weeks ago, something had changed. It still followed the same route and had the same small branching trails off the side but the surface was new and the path was not as wide as it was before. When I first started using this trail, I believe it used to be an actual road. It was wide enough for that and it connected to a road through the park at both ends. At some point, it got changed to being a walking trail with exercise stations along the way. But the asphalt was cracking and buckling and my guess is that there were more than a few people who had fallen on the trail over the last several years. Prior to two weeks ago, the last times I went on this trail, they were in the process of breaking up the edges of it and hauling away the asphalt chunks. They then were putting down a bunch of topsoil and planting native grasses where the edges of the road had been. That was months ago.
It was a bit of a surprise for me, then, to come to this trail to see the grasses that had already grown up along the sides and to walk the smooth, newly paved, but narrower path. It was lovely. It felt more like a walking trail rather than a repurposed road and the bumps and buckles were gone.
It was still the same path but it was entirely new.
In the two Christian traditions in which I “live”, the PCUSA and the UCC, there are similar statements about how God continues to be at work. In the PCUSA, we often refer back to the Reformation’s statement of “once reformed, always reforming according to the Word of God and the call of the Spirit” and in the UCC there is a much simpler phrase that speaks similarly – “God is still speaking.”
The Way that Jesus that I seek to follow is an old way like I have shared in some of the previous reflections in this series. Countless people have journeyed the way of Jesus before me and many more will follow after me. But the way that this Way was followed 2,000, 1,500, 1,000, 500, or even 100 years ago is different from how we follow today. The words of the Sermon on the Mount may have remained the same for the last ~2,000 years but the worlds in which it is heard have changed and continue to change. And so, the curves and the directions remain the same but there is the continued speaking of God’s Spirit and the continued reformation of how we live this Way out.
The church of today must learn from those who have gone before us but also be open to the ways that the Spirit continues to speak. And as the Spirit speaks, we may find that the path is familiar and we also may be surprised by what we find.