|Easter Sunday, Year A||April 12, 2020||Easter Sunday, Year A||Matthew 28:1-10|
|Good Friday, 2020||April 10, 2020||Meditation on the Cross, Good Friday, 2020||John 18:1-19:42|
|Palm Sunday, Year A||April 5, 2020||Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday||Matthew 26:18|
|Lent 5, Year A||March 29, 2020||Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A 2020||John 11:1-45|
|Lent 4, Year A||March 22, 2020||Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C||Psalm 23|
|Lent 3, Year A at the Cathedral||March 15, 2020||Third Sunday in Lent, Year A||John 4:5-42|
|Lent 2, Year A – March 8, 2020 – the Rev. Deacon Carey Connors||March 8, 2020||Lent 2, Year A||John 3:1-17|
|Lent 1, Year A||March 1, 2020||First Sunday in Lent, Year A||Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Matthew 4:1-11|
|Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2020||February 25, 2020||Ash Wednesday, Year A||Joel 2:1-2, 12-17|
|Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||February 23, 2020||Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 17:1-9|
|Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||February 16, 2020||Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Sirach 15:15-20; I Corinthians 3:1-9, I Corinthians 13: 11-12; Matthew 5:21-37; Psalm 119:1-8|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||February 9, 2020||Epiphany 5, Year A||Isaiah 58:1-9a, [9b-12];Matthew 5:13-20|
|The Presentation||February 2, 2020||Presentation of Jesus in the Temple||Luke 2:22-40|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 26, 2020||Third Sunday after the Epiphany||Matthew 4: 12-23, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18|
|Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Congregational Meeting||January 19, 2020||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, Congregational Meeting||Isaiah 49:1-7; John 1:29-42|
Advent 3, Year A
Sermon Date:December 15, 2019
Scripture: Isaiah 35:1-10
Liturgy Calendar: Advent 3, Year A
Have you ever been misled? Have you ever realized that you have somehow gotten off on a wrong path, or been sent down a wrong path, and have lost your way? If so, this sermon is for you. And everyone else, you are welcome to listen in.
In today’s reading from Isaiah, the prophet promises that “the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing: everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”
Here’s a story from a time long past in Yorkshire, England, when farmers eked out a living on small landholdings, with just a few animals to help them along.
Mr. Dakins, a patient old farmer, has six cows and a few pigs and chickens, and all his animals have names.
The story begins as James Herriot, Veterinary Surgeon, has paid a call to stitch up old cow Blossom’s udder. Blossom is twelve years old, and because of her age, her huge udder has dropped, nearly dragging the ground. When she lies down in her byre at night, either Mabel or Buttercup, the cows on either side of her, might step on the sprawling udder. Herriot has been to the farm several times now to repair the damage.
After a discussion with Herriot, the farmer makes the reluctant decision to send the old cow off to market. “She don’t owe me nothing,” he tells Herriot.
And then the farmer tells the vet how he remembers the snowy night that Blossom was born, and the numberless gallons of milk she has given over the years. And he gently rubs the old cow’s head as he talks.
The next week, Herriot returns to the farm to cleanse a cow. While he’s there, the drover shows up to take Blossom to market.
Mr. Dakins says to the drover that he won’t have any trouble with Blossom, she’ll go on along with him, so he unhooks her chain and sure enough, the old cow, at a sign from the farmer, heads up the path toward the other cows waiting at the top of the hill to be taken to market.
The cleansing is a difficult one, and the job takes longer than usual. Herriot finishes up and as he and the farmer reach the door to the byre, they hear the clip clop of an animal’s hooves drifting over the hill. As they listen, they see, rounding an outcrop of rocks at the top of the hill, old Blossom, trotting intently toward the byre. She reaches the doorway and goes straight to her stall.
Mr Dakins and Herriot look at each other in surprise. “Well,” says Mr. Dakins, “there’s a way back to the farm about a mile down the road. Blossom must have cut back home that way.”
In short order the drover comes running up. “There you are, you old bugger,” he shouts at Blossom. “Come on, lass, let’s get going.”
He heads toward Blossom, but Mr Dakin’s outstretched arm stops him. The drover pauses in surprise. Everyone is silent for a minute, and then the old farmer pushes between the cows, and in the silence, the gentle clip of the chain around Blossom’s neck echoes through the barn. And then the farmer just as deliberately goes over to the hay, loads his pitchfork and expertly tosses the hay into the hay rack. Blossom appreciatively takes a mouthful and begins to chew contentedly.
“What is going on here, Mr. Dakins?” the drover asks. “I’ve got to get going, they’re expecting me at the Mart.”
“Never mind,” Mr. Dakins says quietly, “The old lass has come home, and home she’s going to stay. I’ll pay you for your time.”
As the drover leaves, Mr. Dakins says to Herriot, “Do you ever feel like some things just happen like they’re supposed to? When I saw Blossom come over that hill, that’s how I felt. I’m right glad the old lass is home. And you know, I can put her over in the small stable by herself so that old udder of hers won’t get stepped on, and put a few calves on her. She’s still giving four gallons of milk a day.”
“Yes, she will pay her way,” says Herriot, to which the farmer replies, “That doesn’t matter. All that matters is that Blossom has come home, and I’m right glad that she’s back.”
Blossom had gone down one road with the drover toward the market, but she knew another way home, and when she reached that path, she turned onto that way over the hills and headed back home, home to her stall, home to her rack full of hay, home to the person who had cared for her since her birth.
The promise in today’s passage from Isaiah comes true in this simple story about a farmer and his old cow–
“And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing: everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”
Things have come round right. Blossom is home, back from certain death, and the farmer has redeemed her (I’ll pay you for your time, Jack), and now everyone is happy. Throughout Herriot’s telling of this story, which I’ve cut short, the regard that the farmer has for this old cow, and his regret over the decision to send her away is evident, and he is delighted when she returns.
The prophet Isaiah speaks of the Holy Way, the way home for a people who have been in exile. But more than that, the Holy Way is the way for God’s people to get home to God.
Isaiah says that God’s people traveling on the Holy Way cannot go astray. No danger will lie along the path.
As we travel through this life, we are sometimes driven along or led with others down a path we later realize we don’t want to go, a way that may seem safe enough, or even inviting when we start that way, but then the realization hits that we are heading the wrong way, a way that will end in the death of the goodness in our lives, or may even result in our physical harm or death. We realize that the familiar road we’re traveling is full of both visible and invisible dangers.
But as today’s collect reminds us, God’s bountiful grace and mercy will speedily help and deliver us by showing us the Holy Way, which God has laid out for us, the Holy Way that if we turn onto it, will take us home.
The story of salvation is the story of God calling us home.
For those calling out in their misery in slavery in Egypt, God calls those people out of Egypt and leads them home.
Later, God calls God’s people out of exile and lays out the way for them to get home to Zion.
God calls Mary to give birth to God’s son, and Mary rejoices because she realizes that in and through this child who is growing in her womb, God is laying out the abundant and Holy Way home for the humble, the hungry and the poor.
So God, stir up your power in us.
We know the Holy Way home.
May God give us the courage to turn away from the paths that lead to our destruction, to head back home on the Holy Way, to the safety of the place waiting for us, to the stable with that full hayrack of sweet smelling hay, to the One who loves us and who will rejoice when we get back home.
One of the promises of this season of Advent is that when we reach the safety and warmth and abundance of that stable that is home, we will also find there a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger, and we will gaze with gratitude on the One who will grow up to lead us in the paths of righteousness, who will go with us through the valley of the shadow of death, who will come after us with goodness and mercy when we get lost, and will lead us back home by the Holy Way.
And we too will be filled with joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.