I guess I just wanted a special sort of driving experience a few weeks back so I drove I-635 west from US75. The construction going on is an awesome thing to see. When I drove the freeway the traffic on I635 going west from I30 to US75 was actually worse than that after US75. All this highway construction going on to build more lanes and wider lanes for traffic is because so many of us have so many places we want to go. There are many growing cities here and we need more roads that we might be able to get to all these places. So we keep building more massive super concrete roads. It is difficult to conceive that before there were cities, before there were highways, there were only wilderness roads.
The American Wilderness Road was the principal route used by settlers to navigate the Appalachian Mountains. For more than fifty years it was the only way to reach Kentucky from the East. Wikipedia records that the first European explorers of the southern Appalachian Mountains were Spanish.
Hernando de Soto and his troops traversed the region in 1540 and 1541 searching for gold. He was followed by several other Spanish expeditions. The first recorded English explorations of the mountains were those of Abraham Wood, which did not begin until around 1650. It was over 200 years after Hernando de Soto expedition, in 1775 that the famous, Daniel Boone "blazed" a trail for the Transylvania Company from Fort Chiswell in Virginia through the Cumberland Gap into central Kentucky. It was later lengthened, following Native American trails, to reach the Falls of the Ohio at Louisville.
The Wilderness Road was steep, rough, narrow, and it could only be traversed on foot or horseback. Despite the adverse conditions, thousands of people used it. They traveled the wilderness road because it was their desire to reach a new destination. Their motivation to travel such a wilderness road was the expectation of a better future where they were headed. These travelers were not homeless people. They had homes and families and loved ones. Still they chose to leave the comfort and safety of their homes, their families, and friends to seek something new and better.
For first time travelers on such a road it was certainly not what they expected. The way was not easy. The way was not straight and the going was not smooth. Progress was difficult. In spite of the hardships in traveling the road, thousands used it, because they wanted to get to a new destination.
So it is that we find ourselves as a body of believers, as a church, poised at a wilderness road. We know the same apprehension and doubt that must have gone through the minds of those early travelers. The way will not be easy. The way will not be straight and the going will not be smooth. Progress will be difficult and there will be times that we like the children of Israel will ask why we even started this journey. Now and in those times to come may God grant us the grace to remember what is before us is greater than what is behind us. God is doing, God is doing a new thing. May we be reminded that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning. Great is God faithfulness.
We can go forward in the confident assurance that God is with us. We are not alone. This wilderness road will one day be a bustling freeway connecting the people of faith. Persons who have come to know the blessing of the diversity of God will travel the path we blaze to know the joy of Christian fellowship in the love of God.
I applaud all of you who travel this road with us. May the grace of God abound in your life and the sweet communions we share in Holy Spirit rest, rule, and abide with you now and for evermore.