A hope I have
April 4, 2011
by Rev. Richard Flynn, St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, Delano

The following (source: Mark Neifert, Argonia, KS; Light and Life February 1997) was taken from registration sheets and comment cards returned to the staff of the Bridger Wilderness Area in Wyoming in 1996:

1. Trails need to be wider so people can walk holding hands.

2. Trails need to be reconstructed. Please avoid building trails that go uphill.

3. Too many bugs, leeches, and spiders and spider webs. Please spray the wilderness to rid the area of these pests.

4. Please pave the trails so they can be plowed of snow during the winter.

5. Chair lifts need to be in some places so that we can get to wonderful views without having to hike to them.

6. The coyotes made too much noise last night and kept me awake. Please eradicate these annoying animals.

7. A small deer came into my camp and stole my jar of pickles. Is there a way I can get reimbursed?

8. Reflectors need to be placed on trees every 50 feet so people can hike at night with flashlights.

9. Escalators would help on steep uphill sections.

10. A McDonald’s would be nice at the trail head.

11. The places where trails do not exist are not well marked.

12. Too many rocks in the mountains.

Having done a fair amount of hiking in the mountains of the West and the forests of Canada, I am amused by these “helpful’ suggestions to alleviate the rigors of outdoor life. It has always been my experience that the adventure and challenge in overcoming the physical difficulties found in the wilds is at least half the satisfaction of being there. Overcoming the obstacles placed by Mother Nature make it all the more worthwhile.

It has been said that nothing worthwhile is ever easy. I suspect that is true.

It is certainly true about a life of faith. It is not meant to be easy, but a challenging adventure. Parts of it may even prove to be impossible. For instance, I find it impossible to understand the accidental death of innocent children. That is not to say I don’t understand how those things happen, but I have reached a dead end in understanding why. Especially given the Christian claim that God is kind and merciful.

But, by-and-large, God has been kind enough to lead us to the place where we now stand. Currently, our world faces many huge challenges, with unbelievable natural disasters and political change confronting the status quo in significant parts of the world. Our own nation struggles with ever more strident ideologies that seem to have little regard for the weakest, the poorest, or the least powerful among us.

The challenges are indeed great, but that also must mean that the opportunities are great, as well. I am therefore excited by the adventures we now share together in our community and world.

There will still be hard work, and there will almost certainly be some stumbles along the way. So, let us rally around the ancient truth of our faith: to love our neighbor as we would love ourselves, and to trust in a great, kind, and loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

I certainly did not mind the first suggestion listed above. It is, after all, always better to do the adventure together, holding hands, as it were.

And for Christians, learning to love each other along the trail of faith may be the other half of the adventure. I certainly hope so, and may God bless you.