My husband couldn't sleep after the vote on Tuesday, and the next day he told me this story.
This is my sermon this Sunday, and he also asked me to post it here.
Once there was an inspirational Scoutmaster, who set off with his small Scout troop on a hike. As they walked with him, He gave them a vision of the beautiful far country, the King’s own country, that they would reach if they followed his Way. They had also been taught the Scout hiking rules; that you stay together and you can only go at the speed of the slowest walker.
After only a very short while, the Scoutmaster had to leave the Scouts to hike alone, but they had faith in the vision of the beautiful far country and the Way to it that the Scoutmaster had described, so they walked on together. And as they walked, they talked to people they met on the road, and they told them about the Scoutmaster and the beautiful far country, and many joined them on the hike. As they walked and talked together, they realised that the Scoutmaster was in fact the King and had gone on ahead of them to His beautiful far country, and their thirst was redoubled to reach there and meet him again.
They needed this faith as the terrain got rockier, and the Way became less clear. The Scouts realised that the hike was longer than they had thought, and they did not have a map of the terrain ahead, or where the Way was when the path branched.
The Scoutmaster had described to them what the Way was like, so together the Scouts wrote down his descriptions to give a navigation guide to those who had joined them on the road, and had not heard the Scoutmaster for themselves. As they wrote together, they realised they each remembered different things of what the Scoutmaster had said, one recalled that he had been especially clear about following the rules of the road, another that he had said …., and yet another that he was…..
And as they walked on the number of Scouts on the hike grew and grew. They became so numerous that they organised themselves into Patrols, sometimes grouping together Scouts who had joined at the same place, sometimes because they agreed about a particular image of the Scoutmaster.
And sometimes, when they came to a branch in the path, the Patrols would disagree about which was the Way, and would take different paths, with bitter regret, and hoping that the paths would converge again later, and they would meet again in the King’s far country.
So now we will follow just one of these Scout Patrols, after they had been hiking together for many miles. They had the navigation guide that other Scouts had written before them, and they also had faith that the Scoutmaster continued to guide them and that they were walking in roughly the right direction. Even though they could not see him, sometimes one of them thought they could hear his voice calling to them in the night, or speaking to them in the silence as they walked. And they were also guided in finding the path forward by continually looking over their shoulders and comparing the terrain ahead with the path they had followed to get there.
For some time this patrol passed through some lush valleys. But then the road became steeper, and the terrain less welcoming, and they could all see a big mountain up ahead. It became very unclear where the path was going, or even what was the path and what was just rocks.
And as the going got steeper and the path less clear, a few of the Scouts began to say that the lush valleys behind them were in fact the King’s far country already.
They increasingly wanted to slow down, stop, and turn around to admire the beauty of the view. Look how lovely it is, they said. This must be the beautiful far country the King spoke of. The path was so clear up to here, and that view down there is so beautiful and so peaceful. They began to suggest that carrying on walking ahead was to walk out of the King’s country. Some began to say that they should just sit down and stay where they were, looking backwards along the path they’d come and admiring the view.
Many others recalled that there had in fact been steep and rocky hills between each valley, and potholes in the road that had tripped them up. They did not believe that this was the King’s own country, and they wanted to press ahead on the Way. But the Patrol had remembered the Scout hiking rules; that you stay together and you can only go at the speed of the slowest walker, so they waited, more or less patiently, as some groups stopped or walked slower.
But as time went on, and the walk got slower and slower, and the arguments about whether they should climb the mountain, or stay here, or try a different path went on, many got bored and disillusioned by the bickering. And more and more of the scouts gave up on the walk and drifted away, or set off on their own.
Eventually after the Scouts had said many words to each other, but they were still at the foot of the mountain, the Patrol Leader got tired and decided to retire. And he handed onto a new Patrol Leader just at the point where all the Patrol thought they had agreed that they were finally about to ascend the mountain together.
But just at that moment, a few of the Scouts didn’t want to go up the mountain on the unclear path sat down, or lay down, and refused to move. The rest of the patrol pleaded with them to get up and keep going. But they refused to move, and shouted triumphantly that the rest of the Patrol could go not go forward either, as the Scout hiking rule was that they should remain together and go at the speed of the slowest hiker.
And all the rest of the Scouts looked at each other in amazement. They wanted to follow the voice of the Scoutmaster calling from over the mountain, and eventually to meet him face-to-face in the King’s far beautiful country. But they didn’t want to leave their brothers and sisters sitting and lying in the dust of the road. And they didn’t want to all stay under the shadow of the mountain, whilst many of those who lived on the mountain laughed down at the ridiculous spectacle they had made of themselves.
“Enough is enough” they said. And they picked their brothers and sisters up from the floor, swung them over their shoulders, kicking and screaming, and - more slowly than they would like, as they were carrying their friends - they set off on the Way up the mountain together.