Practice of Getting Lost

Devotional for Sunday April 22nd

Written by Pastor Mark

Theme Background

In the season of Easter we are using Barbara Brown-Taylor’s An Altar in the World.   This week we are focusing on Chapter 5: “The Practice of Getting Lost—Wilderness”.  The chapter begins with Brown Taylor’s description of the cows who reside in the field next to her home.  Although the cows have over a hundred acres of land, they travel from one specific spot to another on skinny, well worn paths which are both efficient and safe.  For the most part they take the shortest route between two points except for where the terrain is too difficult.  But we’re not cows so this certainly doesn’t apply to us, right?

I walk around town on a regular basis.  My walking partner and I have very regular routes from which we seldom depart.  I don’t drive a car for a commute, but I would bet most people who do follow very regular paths to work each day.  With the advent of GPS technology, IPhones, and IPads, getting lost may be a thing of the past (or not!)  Getting lost is serious worry for us; none of us wants to get lost.  Yet, if we reflect we may discover that some of our favorite memories were of being in a place where we didn’t know where we were going and ended up somewhere wonderful.   Here is Brown Taylors’s reasons to leave the cow path:

“Because once you leave the cow path, the unpredictable territory is full of life.  True, you cannot always see where you are putting your feet.  This means that you can no longer afford to stay unconscious.  You can no longer count on the beat-down red dirt path making all of your choices for you.  Leaving it, you agree to make your own choices for a spell.  You agree to become aware of each step you take, tuning all of your senses to exactly where you are and exactly what you are doing.”

One of the reasons we fear becoming lost is that it will throw us off of our carefully crafted schedules!  We might lose control.  Taylor Brown says that such safe exercises of getting lost and stepping outside of our schedules and ruts may be important because they prepare us for the inevitable times of life where we will be totally set off course—things like the end of a relationship that we thought would last forever, the death of someone we love, the loss of a job, or a major sickness.  Such events point out that we are not in control of our lives.  They also may demonstrate in a powerful way that we are dependent on one another.  We do not like to feel as though we need others, but we do.  Stepping outside of the familiar and becoming lost may also create an empathy for others who may be lost.  Those who are suffering, those who are new to this country, those who don’t speak the dominate language.  Practice today, step outside of your precious schedule and get lost—on purpose!  The lesson from 1st John should enable us to step out in faith and confidence.  We are precious children, and if you are doubting that reality right now, have a seat, eat a meal, and place your hands directly into the marks of Jesus’ own lost-ness.  How precious it is to worship a God who knows what it is to be lost, to be human, and who graciously welcomes our doubts and questions.

Quotes for the Week

“Popular religion focuses so hard on spiritual success that most of us do not now the first thing about the spiritual fruits of failure.”                       Barbara BrownTaylor

Live on, survive, for the earth gives forth wonders.  It may swallow your heart, but the wonders keep on coming.  You stand before them bareheaded, shriven.  What is expected of you is attention.                                            Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet


Scientists tell us that the fastest animal on earth, with a top speed of 120 feet per second, is a cow that has been dropped out of a helicopter. How long, traveling at top speed, will it take the cow to travel 360 feet?                                  Dave Barry


1st Lesson 1st John 3:1-7 (version)

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3 And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 4 Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.

Gospel Lesson Luke 24:36-48 (version)

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence. 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you– that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

Questions for the Week

1. When was the last time you remember being lost?  What do you remember about that time?

2. How might you try to step outside of your regular pathways this week?

3. Who do you know who might be feeling lost?  How might you be a companion to them?

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