By The Rev. Sherry Crompton
May 22, 2011
Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”. He says this in response to Thomas’ honest questioning – “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” How can we know the way? If we’re honest with ourselves, we have the same question. How can we know the way?”
Jesus is speaking of a way of life – in Jewish circles the “way” was another term for a way of living one’s life. Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth and the life”. Thomas a Kempis, in 15th century language had this to say about Jesus’ words: Without the Way there is no going: without the Truth there is no knowing; without the life, there is no living. I am the Way which thou oughtest to follow; the Truth which thou oughtest to believe; the Life, which thou oughtest to hope for. I am the Way inviolable, the Truth infallible, the Life unending. I am the Way that is straightest, the Truth that is true, the Life blessed, the Life uncreated. If thou remain in my way, thou shalt know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free, and thou shalt lay hold on eternal life.
Some of you may remember the book and the movie, “The Legend of Bagger Vance”. It is a story that uses golf as a metaphor for one man’s spiritual journey. Rannulph Junuh is a gifted amateur golfer from Savannah, GA, until World War I broke out and changed his destiny. Instead of playing golf, Junah enlisted in the army along with his classmates, and was shipped off to Europe to fight against the Germans in the trenches of France. There his talent for golf was of no value. The main objective was simply to kill the enemy and survive a horrible war against great odds. At the end of the war, he was the only member of his company, the only one of his classmates, who returned home alive. Psychologically devastated by the violence he had witnessed and the friends he had lost, disillusioned with the posh life he had known before the war, Junah retired to a secluded farm house where he drank and gambled with the riffraff of society and completely cut his ties with Adele, who was his girlfriend, and the upper class people with whom he lived earlier.
Adele the beautiful heiress who once loved Junuh, inherits a spectacular but financially ailing golf course after the suicide of her father. To attract customers, she proposed a high-stakes match between the two most famous golfers of the day, Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. But the businessmen sponsoring the match insist that a local golfer be added to the card, and Junuh is drafted for the position, but it soon becomes obvious that his game is just a shadow of its former glory. When things seem hopeless, a mysterious gentleman named Bagger Vance volunteers to serve as Junuh’s caddy and coach, using a mixture of ancient wisdom and past-life knowledge to help Junah “remember” the swing he’s lost.
There is a young boy, who idolizes Junah, that wants to help and I share a scene from the movie in which Bagger Vance is teaching the young body, Hardy, about just what an authentic swing is the night before the great match on the golf course.
Bagger Vance says, “Right here is where this game is won. Right here on the green. First you got to see it. Sun gonna be here in the morning. Over there in the afternoon. Funny thing is, the blades of grass gonna follow the sun. The grain is gonna shift. That same putt…gonna go one way in the morning, the other in the afternoon. One way in the morning, the other in the afternoon. You see that? A golf course put folk through quite a punishment. It lives and breathes just like us.
Hardy asks if he thinks Junuh can win. Bagger says yes, if he can find his authentic swing. Inside each and every one of us is one true, authentic swing. Something we was born with, that’s ours…and ours alone. Something can’t be taught or learned. Something that got to be remembered. Over time, the world can rob us of that swing…and get buried inside us under all our woulda’s and coulda’s and shoulda’s. some folk even forget what their swing was like. You keep swinging… But Hardy has no balls. Don’t worry about the ball or where it’s gonna go. Just swing the club. Close your eyes. You can’t make that ball go in. You have to let it. Feel the club. Feel the weight of the club. A deep perfect line. Dropping in, soft as butter. Listen to the sounds of the night. Keep swinging that club. Feel the breeze coming off the sea. Inside every one of us is one true, authentic swing. Keep swinging that club…until you’re part of the whole thing. Something we was born with.
And Bagger Vance quietly puts a ball in front of Hardy as he continues swinging, eyes closed, and ball goes into the hole, soft as butter.
Bagger Vance was using golf as a metaphor for living our life. For a way of life. Inside each of us is something of God, that part of us that is true and authentic. Junuh’s life circumstances were very difficult and caused him to forget who he was. The world robbed him of his authentic swing.
Developing, finding, deepening our relationship with Christ is our way of finding our true, authentic swing. We can’t make the ball go in, we have to let it. We can let go of our worries about where the ball will go. We simply need to keep swinging, keep living, keeping striving for a deeper relationship with Christ.
Jesus tells us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” May we all find our true, authentic swing and let our hearts not be troubled, because, no matter what, no matter where our ball goes, God is there. Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling. Calling for you and for me. Calling us home, home is wherever the love of God is present. “I am the way, the truth and the life”.
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