77 - No. 08
FROM THE PASTOR:
Expedition of Discovery
The Lewis and Clark Bicentennial ends next month with a massive fireworks exhibition in St. Louis–marking 200 years since the explorers arrived back in the city where their journey began. If you had forgotten that the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial was underway, don’t feel bad–the commemoration fell below the radar of lots of folks. According to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal, the events celebrating the bicentennial have been enormously under-attended. Various communities along the explorers’ route–in North and South Dakota, Montana, and Idaho–planned massive celebrations...and were disappointed at the puny crowds that showed up. (Perhaps the event simply wasn’t given enough publicity–I stumbled upon the bicentennial rather by accident, while visiting New Orleans the summer before Katrina, A Lewis and Clark film was playing at the IMAX theater there. I attended, and found it an absorbing presentation. I also have commemorated the bicentennial by spending lots of Sacagawea dollars and Lewis and Clark nickels!)
But the expedition is an important part of our heritage as Americans. Merriwether Lewis and William Clark were commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803 to explore western territories. They followed the Missouri River from St. Louis through South Dakota. They crossed the Rocky Mountains, then followed the Columbia River all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, they found a guide in the young Shoshone Indian girl Sacagawea. The expedition was a key event in the making of America–an early _expression of the nation’s "manifest destiny" to expand all the way to the Pacific. Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea stand high in the roll call of American heroes. So even though the bicentennial has only a month and a half left to run, it’s well worth recalling the "undaunted courage" (to use the title of Stephen Ambrose’s book) of the explorers who helped create America.
Thinking about the Lewis and Clark bicentennial can also, perhaps, remind us that we are on an expedition of discovery. It’s our journey of faith. As we walk by faith, we are moving into "undiscovered territory"–the future God has in store for us. And we also are moving deeper into our relationship with God. The life of faith can be an exciting voyage of discovery.
On a recent trip to the Midwest–having spent a few days in Lewis and Clark’s city of departure, St. Louis–I was caught on the highway in a violent thunderstorm. Fearing tornadoes, I pulled off the highway and parked in the lot of a convenience store to ride the storm out. Sitting in my car, I pulled out my Bible–and read through St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians. I hadn’t read that particular book of the Bible straight through in awhile. And the words took me far away from the rain that pounded on my windshield–I was in a different territory, God’s territory. And the same thing happened to me that happens every time I read Scripture–I found things I had never seen before, I was reaffirmed in things I already knew, and I felt myself drawing closer to God. Opening the pages of the Bible was an expedition of discovery!
We enter into the church...and the service begins. God is present! He forgives us our sins through the crucified and risen Christ! We hear His very Word read! We are invited to His altar to be touched by His very presence in the Holy Sacrament! We have left the ordinary world behind and are on a wonderful journey of discovery–discovering the greatness of God’s love for us!
Lewis and Clark were venturing into what was, for them, undiscovered country–but they had Sacagawea to guide them in their travels. And in our spiritual expedition, we have a sure guide–the Holy Spirit whom God has poured into our hearts. He leads us forward, into the Scriptures, into the Sacraments, into worship, into prayer, there to discover the depth and the wonder and the beauty of God’s love.
Lewis and Clark’s expedition ended when they arrived back in St. Louis in 1806–the event that the fireworks will celebrate next month. But our journey of discovery really has no end. Even when we enter the beautiful fireworks of heaven, we still will be growing in our relationship with God. Our journey into God will be an everlasting journey, filled with endless discovery and endless joy!
So as you finger those Lewis and Clark nickels and those Sacagawea dollars...as you think about this great expedition that helped make America... remember your own journey. You need not go up the Missouri or across the Rockies–a wondrous journey awaits you in the pages of your Bible, in the walls of your church, in your walk with God!
God loves you and so do I!
CORRECTION: In last month’s newsletter, I attributed a quote about patriotism to a character in "Glengary, Glennross" by David Mamet. Alas, I was getting my Jack Lemmon characters mixed up. The quote in question came, not from Shelly Levine in "Glengary Glenross", but from Harry Stoner in "Save the Tiger"–a 1973 film for which Mr. Lemmon won the Oscar. I apologize for any confusion or inconvenience caused by my mixing up the movies.
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