Year C Advent 2 WEDNESDAY, 8 December 2021
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“Detours, Diversions, and Derailments”
Collect: Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
Today I want to look at Jesus’ warnings from three D’s. Detours. Diversions. And, Derailments.
Looking at just these three words. A Detour is when you will get to where you are going, but often by a slightly longer route because something got in the way. A Diversion is when you are taken off the path, and focus goes there instead of getting you on your way. And a Derailment is when something gets you off the path, and you cannot proceed. Jesus is trying to save us from all of that.
There are Detours on our paths at times. Through no fault of our own we cannot go down the path we intended, not directly anyway. A perfect example of that in our lives is when we have an illness, or someone close to us does. It requires our attention for a season. Our intention stays the same, but we have to step off the path.
Diversions are things that are intentionally put in our way to take us off the path. This is the life equivalent of someway waving us into an alley to sell us a fake Rolex or worse mug us. Diversions are an attempt to hinder us to someone else’s benefit, no matter the cost to those they divert. The Sackler Family’s obsession with profits at the cost to so many victims of addiction is a perfect example that has been in news recently.
Derailments are spoilers, intending to take others off the path, period. It is not about short term gain for anybody, but long term destruction. The terrorist attacks on 9/11 are an example of this. No matter the cost to those doing it, or those attacked, it was attempt to destroy property, faith, and people. They have derailed the course of our country for decades, and we will be paying the price for decades more.
In our Spiritual lives, you may encounter all these. I have experienced people attempting all three.
People have needed my help or life needed my focus for seasons short and long, but I was able to stay on course even with these detours. No harm was intended, and no long term injury was incurred.
There have been those who diverted me from what I needed to be about. I shared about a dream I had that helped me stay the course when I was offered a job that would have taken me away from the ministry.
And there have been those who tried to run me out of the ministry. And they came really close. That is one of the reasons why I taught school for 12 years. Their intended derailment thankfully only became a long-term diversion, but it still took time and effort to overcome their hate.
As Jesus warned: There are those who “...tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces.”
They do it for their benefit, no matter the cost to you. God forgive them. Jesus calls us to stay the course, keep on track, and when folks detour, divert, or attempt to derail us, we need to keep our eye fixed on the prize and follow the One who leads our way, Jesus himself. We have one teacher or rabbi, Jesus. We have one father alone, Jesus. When Jesus spoke to calling folks father, that was looking at rabbinical teaching lines. We call priests father as they look not to a teaching father, or rabbinical line, but at Jesus who is the “author and perfecter of our faith.” We have only one father, but sometimes people call me Father Rock. And if I attempt to Detour, Divert, or Derail you, I am no longer in the line of Father Jesus and hence my priesthood is null and void. May we always look to him, and only him along our way. Amen.