Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…
The August 31st publication of the journal “Science” reported on a new study done collaboratively with scientists in China, Italy, and the United States. According to their research, 900,000 years ago planet earth had a human population of approximately 1,280. It would have been a great time to buy a waterfront property on Whidbey Island. 1,280 people; some of you have that many Facebook friends, some Sunday afternoons there are that many people in the ferry line. Of course, there were no ferries, no roads, no GPS, no maps. In fact, it is unlikely that our predecessors even knew how to control fire for warmth or cooking.
The scientists believe that the human population stayed pretty much the same for the next 117,000 years. Before there were roads, ancient people wandered through unexplored countryside staying close to fresh water. Before there were roads, before there were maps, everyone had to find their own way. Finding one’s own way in life is not easy.
Over time there was an evolution of sorts, one man walked in a certain direction, plants, and grass under foot. Then a woman came along with her child, and she could see where vegetation had been disturbed and on occasion, she could faintly identify the crude outline of a human foot. Then along came another, and another and another. It was a time before there were roads, but with the passing of each pedestrian, paths began to appear. And the paths became a trail, each human walking in the footprints of those who had gone before, trusting in the wisdom of unknown ancestral travelers.
The paths we walk may be new to us, but they are familiar in the human story. The joys and sorrows that we experience have remained mostly unchanged since the dawn of human history. Songs of hope and liberation have been sung on those paths. People of faith and doubt have struggled to put one foot in front of the other. The tears of grieving ancestors provided necessary hydration giving birth to the wildflowers that color the pathway. Before there were roads there were paths, the paths remind us that we are not alone or unique. We are in fact, just passing by, like people have passed by for 900,000 years. Our lives have been enriched and informed by those who came before us, and we will leave our legacy to the generations that follow us.
I would like to end with the second stanza of a hymn by brothers James and Rosamond Johnson. It is known as the Black National Anthem; Life Every Voice and Sing.
“Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod, felt in the days when hope unborn had died; yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet come to the place for which our parents sighed? We have come over a way that with tears has been watered; we have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered, out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.”
One beggar telling another where to find bread, I am your