Getting Away From it All
First United Presbyterian Church
“Getting Away From It All”
Rev. Amy Morgan
December 10, 2017
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins.
3 A voice cries out: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
5 Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
6 A voice says, "Cry out!" And I said, "What shall I cry?" All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.
9 Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, "Here is your God!"
10 See, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.
11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'"
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
6 Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
7 He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.
8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
There’s this fantasy we all have sometimes. When lift gets too hectic. Or too stressful. When we’re too far behind. When we’re overwhelmed with responsibility. Or guilt. When we’re on the verge of resorting to apathy. Or relativism.
This fantasy arises. It goes something like this. Imagine it with me.
We walk away from it all. Cash in our chips. Go off the grid. Hop off the hamster wheel.
What does that fantasy look like for you? Where does your mind go when you are so over it all, when you’ve had it with everyone and everything, when you’re ready to give up this farce?
Imagine walking away from everything that is wrong and frustrating and ugly and bothersome in your life. Walk into the woods. Walk into the desert. Head for the hills. Whatever your fantasy is, put yourself on the trail out of crazytown.
Trouble is, as you walk, you find you collect new kinds of dust. Or sand. Or dirt. Your own sweat clings to you, making your skin crawl with grime. The walking exhausts you, the waiting for nothing to happen wears you down. And after a while, you begin to see the discarded debris of your old life strewn along the path. A broken relationship here. A tattered dream there. A neglected obligation in your peripheral view.
The wreckage of your old life attaches itself to you as you pass, and you must drag it along behind, weighing down your every step.
Just when you think you cannot go another step, bearing this load, wearing this filth, you glimpse something in the distance. An oasis of sorts, perhaps. You can’t be sure. But you move toward it with renewed energy and strength, hopeful that there is something there that will end the monotony of this journey. Something that can cleanse your begrimed body. Someplace to set down this burden, this life, you are dragging along with you.
As you get closer, you see a person. An ODD person. Strangely dressed. Dangerously different. Yet you are drawn to this person. They have a magnetism, an aura.
In a way, this person is very much what you had hoped you would become in fleeing your former life. A person set apart. A non-conformist. An authentic person.
You see others flocking from every direction toward this stranger. At the place where you all meet up, there is a pool. The water isn’t crystalline and cool. Its murky, almost muddy, possibly even polluted.
But your skin itches to be washed. You try to pull off your burdens, fearful they will weigh you down and drown you.
But the stranger by the water says no. It all goes in with you.
You are fearful and uncertain, but you long to be clean. So in you go.
You close your eyes and hold your breath and quickly sink to the bottom of the pool. The water feels almost abrasive, and the weight of your burdens holds you down. You can’t see, you can’t breathe, you lose track of time and fear you will die here at the bottom of this strange pool in this strange place.
And you begin to think of the life you tried to escape. The stress of shopping for gifts is obscured by the love you feel for those you had planned to give them to. What will they miss more? You, or the wrapped box under the tree? Your frustration with a co-worker’s slacking off is overshadowed by gratitude for all that your work has given you: financial security, purpose, a sense of accomplishment. Fleetingly, each and every vexation, disappointment, or discontentment arises in your mind and is replaced with scenes of joy and fulfilment and gratitude.
As you conduct this review of your former life, the life you ran from, the life you have lost, possibly forever now, you begin to notice that those burdens that had been holding you prisoner to the water are lifting, floating, eventually pulling you up to the surface of the water.
You come up, gasping for air, grateful for life, for all of it – the crowed malls and the short-tempered bosses, the whining children and the frenzied schedule. You breath it all in. You love it all, embrace it all. You are lighter than air.
And you notice that you are clean, your skin scrubbed and exfoliated by the strange, abrasive water.
You confront the stranger by the water. Maybe you wrap this odd person in a soaking embrace. You want to know how to hold on to this feeling. This feeling of joy, of lightness, of peace, of clean, clear beauty.
You want to go back, back to your life – to the spouse you argued with and the kids you yelled at, to the neighbor you snubbed and the needy person you ignored. But you don’t want to travel the same road. You need something to keep your burdens light, to keep the grime from collecting on your skin again.
You ask the stranger, “what can I do?” What road can I travel to get back but stay like this? You don’t want to be who you were before.
One is coming, says the stranger. One who will go with you. Like a pillar of fire to light your way, to burn away all the dirt and grime with a refining fire, to guide your steps, to lift your spirit. One is coming. Follow that One back.
He will show you the way.
He is the way.
He is on the way.
And so, with joy and anticipation, we wait.