The one less travelled by - St Bride's: Reflection

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The one less travelled by

Matthew 13: 31-34

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31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:

32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

34 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:

The one less travelled by

In 1916 two poets Edward Thomas and his American friend Robert Frost, stayed near Dymock in Gloucestershire, and they went for walks in the local woods. Thomas knew the area and led their trips but he had a habit of regretting the routes he had chosen. This prompted Frost to write his famous poem 'The Road Not Taken', in which he imagines himself in a wood faced with a path that diverges in two directions.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,    
And sorry I could not travel both    
And be one traveller, long I stood    
And looked down one as far as I could    
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,    
And having perhaps the better claim,    
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;    
Though as for that the passing there    
Had worn them really about the same,    
And both that morning equally lay    
In leaves no step had trodden black.    
Oh, I kept the first for another day!    
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,    
I doubted if I should ever come back.    

I shall be telling this with a sigh    
Somewhere ages and ages hence:    
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--    
I took the one less travelled by,    
And that has made all the difference.

You can read this poem simply as an account of a walk through a wood, on a summer's day, choosing one track rather than another, or you can read it as a metaphor about the paths we take in our lives, the choices we make, the things we achieve and the possibilities that won't be realised, the people we have become and the people we might have been.

I have chosen this poem because for me, this Sunday marks not just the end of 14 very happy years of ministry here but also, after 41 years, the end of my full-time ministry in the Church of England. At the age of 23, I made a choice to train for the ordained ministry, a choice some people found hard to understand. I took the road less travelled, and it has made all the difference to my life, in a wholly positive way. It was a road that led to Rosemary and our family, to ministry in Reading, University Chaplaincy, lovely Berkshire villages, the town of Buckingham and then here, to St Bride's. No doubt there were other paths I could have taken, but this is the one I chose and I have had no regrets: I would follow that same path again.

Very early on Christianity came to be designated as 'The Way' because of Jesus' words about himself - 'I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.' (John 14: 4)) and Christians were called 'Followers of the Way'. Not everyone is called to the ordained ministry but we all make choices in our lives and we are here this morning as followers of The Way and today we welcome two new followers, Digby and Huxley. You, their parents, have made a choice for them, to take what is increasingly in our society the road less travelled, the Christian Way. I pray that you will encourage them in it so that they may grow in the faith into which today they have been baptised.

As I look back to that choice I made over 40 years ago, and all the earlier influences that led up to that choice, I keep coming back to what seems to me the fundamental choice that we all have to make about how we look at the world and human life: do we regard what we see and experience every day just on the surface, or do we see the world pointing beyond itself - to a Creator whom we call God and whom we believe has revealed himself in Jesus Christ? Do we stay with the superficial, the surface explanation, or do we look for a deeper meaning?

Very early on in my life I looked for that deeper meaning and believed I had found it in the Christian Way and the Christian Church, and that Way has sustained me ever since. I certainly don't fully understand all the mysteries of the universe but that's the path I have taken, and all I can say is that it has made all the difference, and I pray it will for Digby and for Huxley.

For the past 14 years all of you have been part of that path, we have shared many things together, joys and sorrows. I thank you for your fellowship, your inspiration, the fun we've had together and I pray that like the mustard seed and the leaven in the parable of Jesus we heard as the Gospel, God's Spirit will continue working in all sorts of hidden ways in the life of this church as you move into a new chapter and new adventures.

May God bless each of us in our travelling and help us to be 'Followers of His Way. Amen.

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