Here at SUUSI, we have a yearly theme; this year’s is “Blessed Is the Path,” and the resulting worship services have explored the many ways we are on our path, what we may encounter on the path, and what it means to say ‘yes’ to the path.
Of course, my mind has spent a little energy thinking about the path I’m heading down; a path that’s mine and mine alone. Friend and colleague Karen Armina (formerly Quinlan) reminded us of these words from Joseph Campbell:
If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.
Our hymn today is about the paths we make. It’s not about looking back at our accomplishments (for which we do also give praise) but about looking forward to the next step – the untilled field, the open sea, the roads ahead.
Our praise we give for harvests earned,
the fruits of labor garnered in;
but praise we more the soil unturned
from which the yield is yet to win.
Our praise we give for harbor’s lee,
for moorings safe in waters still;
but more the leagues of open sea,
where favoring gales our canvas fill.
Our praise we give for journey’s end,
the inn, all warmth and light and cheer;
but more for length’ning roads that wend
through dust and heat and hilltops clear.
Soren Kierkegaard is famously quoted as saying “Life is lived forward but understood backward.” The path ahead – unturned, unsailed, untraveled – makes sense only because we look back and know that what we do creates a life well lived.
Now I know I’m waxing poetic this morning and not saying much about the hymn itself. So let me pause to say the tune is a gorgeous piece by Percy Carter Buck, and the lyrics are part of a longer piece written by Unitarian minister John Coleman Adams.
It is a lush and lovely hymn, one I would definitely use at an ingathering or a sending off. Or maybe another time of the year – because our journey never ends until we do, and the time we are on the path is a lot longer than the preparation or reflection.
As I and my colleagues across denominations are wont to say, that’ll preach.