Never You Mind the Exit Signs
Psalm 1 | The Music of My Mind Sermon Series | Trinity Sunday |May 31, 2015
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And so begins Robert Frost’s well-known poem, “The Road Not Taken.” The poem was written in 1916 and it focus on a person that is probably standing in a fork in the road, wondering what road to take. Both are seem interesting to the person. Why can’t I take both?
This poem has been considered a favorite of many and it is taken very seriously, which is funny because Frost wrote as a gentle ribbing of his friend Edward Thomas who dealt with a lot of indecision.
This is the start of our six-week summer series on the book of Psalms. Psalms is the largest book of the Bible with 150 chapters, but for this series we will focus on six and the first one we will look at is the very first Psalm. I remember learning this Psalm when I was about ten years old. I went to a religious school and we learned this passage. What I remember about this passage is from the Bible I got for class. It was illustrated and this passage had stick-figure like people doing both the right thing and the wrong thing. The pictures put the passage in stark detail: some choose right, others choose wrong. So my earliest memory of this passage is to choose to do right, or end up like the idiots who chose the path of the wicked.
But is life really that easy? Isn’t it more like what Robert Frost was trying to say, that there are two roads, or maybe even three or 10 that all seem good?
I don’t think that life is as easy as the Psalm might think it is, and I also think the writer knows this as well. Life is not as easy as choosing this road over that. In reality, we are always making that choice , everyday. Somedays, we take the wrong road. Somedays, we are on the right road. Psalm 1 is not a one-time choice, but something that happens in our lives everyday. It’s more of a journey than it is a decision. It’s a journey where God is our constant companion, guiding us along the way instead of a judge just waiting for us to take wrong turn. It is a journey where we become close to God, we long to know God more and we find ways to remember God all the time during our journey. The psalmist says the righteous one meditates on God’s word day and night. Now no one has time read the Bible all day. But we can pray. We can have a regular devotion schedule. We can put up a cross to remind us that God is with us. It is a reminder that God is with us on the journey all the time.
This time last week, my husband Daniel and I were driving from Flint, Michigan back to Minneapolis with my mother’s stuff. I wasn’t looking forward to sitting in a U-haul truck for 13 hours, but it wasn’t so bad. But it was better than traveling alone. I’ve made the trip between Michigan and Minnesota more than once alone and it is not fun. It is a chore. Driving with another person makes it easier. Actually flying makes really easy, but that’s not the point of this sermon. Having two people driving makes it easier in driving that long distance and it can help guide someone in unfamilar territory like say driving around the Chicago suburbs on the toll roads.
It is easy in our culture to think that Psalm one is a solitary journey. And it can be, but that would be boring. Having people there on the journey reminds us that God is with us and that we don’t make this choice in following God alone. That is why we have church, to remind us that we journey together, not alone.
One of the things I plan to do with this series is pair it with a popular song. I decided to pair Psalm 1 with the song “Freeway of Love,” a 1985 hit by fellow Michigander Aretha Franklin. Now, some might wonder where you can find Psalm 1 in this song and I don’t think it is that easily visible. It’s funny, most of the commentaries I look at focused a lot about trees being planted near water. Being the son of automakers and hailing from Michigan, I focused on the final verse which talks about “the way” which makes me think of roads.
One verse in Franklin’s song stuck with me as I was listening to the song again. It goes “Never you mind the exit signs.” In the video of the song which was shot in and around Franklin’s hometown of Detroit, just after she say this we see a picture of a number of signs to the various Detroit freeways. It is a confusing mix and if that gaggle of signs still exists I’m pretty sure I would take the wrong exit.
“Never you mind the exit signs.” We stay on the holy road, when we seek to understand God through reading Scripture, prayer, worship and communion. We stay on the road and ignore the exit signs when we realize that we aren’t alone; we walk with God and we walk together as a community called church. Never you mind the exit signs. Stay on the road that is filled with love, wonder and awe.
On interstate 75, north of Detroit is a sign for a Baptist church. It does more than talk about the church. It has a message: a large picture of Jesus with the following inscription below it: “Are you on the right road?”
Some think the message is a bit condescending. That said, the message isn’t off. Are we following the way of the righteous, the way of God? Or are we following the way of the wicked? Sometimes we are on the right road, seeking to know God. Other times we are on the wrong road and we long for God to set things to right. All the while we are reminded, encouraged to stay on the road of life and “never you mind the exit signs.”
Or to put this in the words of Robert Frost:
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 traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Thanks be to God. Amen.