The flight from the beautiful green mountains of western North Carolina to Atlanta is a short one -- under half an hour. Short flights fly low: I can see the farms and pastures, the forests, the ribbons of roads the whole way back east. A respectable layover in Atlanta -- there will be not be a breakneck race through that busy place to catch my connecting flight to New York this time. Even if there were, though, it wouldn't have bothered me -- I'm so used to traveling that nothing does. Your plane will probably be on time, unless it isn't. And if it isn't, you will get another plane in the near future. You will not have to live out your days in an airport. Eventually, you will make it home.
This was my last weekend away for a long time. A person can't lead a congregation and also run around the country as I've been doing for the last ten years. One makes choices, and I've chosen St. Luke's for now. It is a peaceful feeling, knowing where I will be for the foreseeable future. I've grown accustomed to checking my calendar in order to answer questions about that, but no more. I'll be at the cute little church at 17 Oak Avenue in Metuchen. If you're there, I'll see you on Sunday. If you're not, I guess I won't.
I am happy about this choice, but I will miss things about my itinerant life. All the communities I join for a brief but intense time together. I will miss the South, where my travels often take me: its beauties, its gentilities. I will miss seeing churches new to me. In an odd way, I will miss the anonymity of airports.
How do you know what is the right road to take? Do you stay or do you go? Say yes or say no? Do you choose this one or that one? Theologian Paul Tillich thought that the central dread of being human is that we cannot know, yet must choose - of course, he was talking about our approach to the existence of God, not the everyday decisions in people's lives. The fact is, though, that every choice we make, from whether or not to be a person of faith to whom to marry to what profession to enter to whether or not to order the prime rib, is a choice made in at least partial darkness. I don't know that this chronic uncertainty is our "central dread" -- competition for that honor is fierce -- but it's certainly a damned inconvenience. Know ourselves as well as we can, research our choices as much as we can, and most everything is still a pig in a poke.
Blessings on the choices you make, and blessings on mine. All of them change history, a little or a lot: just how, you can never know fully in advance. And yet even the ones soon revealed to have been poor ones do not doom us -- we continue to have lines in our own play until the curtain falls. It can require great courage to speak them.
Want to see the cute little church? Visit www.stlukesmetuchen.org.