THE PARTING OF THE WAYS

THE PARTING OF THE WAYS

Our Gospel lesson from John reports the reaction of the crowd when Jesus finished His famous “Bread of Life” sermon:   “From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.”

Every veteran pastor knows what this is like – the sullen look that says, “No!” to some plain word of God and storms out.

This parting of the ways has been there:

  • ever since Cain went forth from the presence of the Lord to found an evil empire of his own,

  • ever since God shut the door of Noah’s ark behind him and his family,

  • ever since the angels of a merciful Gold dragged Lot and his loved ones out of the gay ghettoes of Sodom,

  • ever since an angry Moses at the foot of Mt. Sinai saw the golden calf and issued an ultimatum:  “Whoever is on the Lord’s side, let him come to me!”,

  • ever since Joshua mustered the troops one last time to say, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,”

  • ever since Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down with the multitudes like wheat before the wind to Nebuchadnezzar’s state-sponsored, generic idol,

  • ever since Daniel refused to join in ecumenical prayers to the emperor and found himself in the lion’s den.

In one of the saddest scenes in the four Gospels, Jesus turns to the Twelve and says:  “You do not want to leave too, do you?”

Many who followed Jesus hoping for a sugar-daddy Savior found their shallow hopes disappointed.  They turned and walked away:

  • like the confirmands we no longer see in God’s house,

  • like the spiritual casualties who once professed faith in Christ but have now gone back to their old life without Christ,

  • like people who profess Christ while contradicting what Christ says.

They walk away.  Attendance drops.  The numbers are whittled down.

Jeremiah speaks of this parting of the ways in today’s text from Jeremiah:  “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”

To those whose hearts are still drawn by the Father to the loving arms of Jesus, we few, we happy few, are blessed to say with Simon Peter:  “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”