Recently, Becky and I, as well as my parents, walked into the Elkins Depot and purchased our tickets for the New Tygart Flyer. After browsing through the historical displays, we walked to the rail car, placed one foot on the box with the worn black paint, grabbed the handrail and boarded the train. It was a special treat-the restored car, the comfortable seats, and the view of the magnificent depot. I can't wait for the museum.
After a short wait, the train slowly started to move through the Elkins industrial area, cross South Davis Avenue and toward the High Falls of Cheat. I always thought that train tracks were placed on fairly flat surfaces. Once the New Tygart Flyer left Elkins, I discovered that rails are often placed upon steep inclines. We were climbing the mountain.
We journeyed through a very long tunnel complete with an S-turn. Since the train was moving so carefully, I never realized that the turn was there. We passed through an abandoned lumber town, Bemis, which is sometimes known as Gregsville, and arrived at the Upper Falls. What a beautiful sight.
After the trip I better understand why the railroad is often used in music and poetry as a metaphor for the Christian faith. The gentle sway of the cars, the rhythmic clicking of the tracks and the long sound of the whistle is enough to turn any reasonable person to music and poetry. I imagine that while you are reading this, an old railroad hymn is going through your mind. My favorite is a relatively new song which says, "People get ready, there's a train a coming Don't need no ticket you just thank the Lord."
It seems to me that while on a train the quality of the ride depends upon the foundation supporting the rails. If the railroad bed is washed away by heavy rains, then there is a danger of derailment. If the railroad bed is uneven, then the tracks will be uneven and the cars will sway severely. If the foundation is bumpy, then the cars will bounce relentlessly. The quality of the ride depends upon the foundation.
After stepping off the train at the Elkins Depot, I walked to the other side to imagine the rail museum and I saw several large pickup trucks carrying the railroad's emblem. Each truck carried the necessary equipment that would allow it to travel upon the tracks. In the back of each truck was a variety of tools to do the necessary repair and maintenance. The Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad knows the importance of maintenance.
The same is true with our faith. If our faith is built upon a strong foundation, then it will withstand any storm. Isn't this what Jesus meant when he contrasted the house built upon the sand with the house built upon the rock? If our foundation is not strong then we will certainly fall for any temptation.
What are we doing to maintain the foundation upon which we stand - Jesus Christ? Perhaps the beginning step is to be faithful in our attendance. During the recent series on Holy Conferencing, I heard many people say that they continue to attend church because they gain inspiration from the people attending worship and church school. I also heard many people say that worship and church school orients their week in the right direction. "Unless I attend church, my week just doesn't go well." If you are thinking that you need to start attending church, then I invite you do so this Sunday.
Another step is to faithfully participate in the sacraments. John Wesley urged his parishioners to commune frequently. In one year alone, we know that Wesley received communion over 300 times. When Wesley read the communion passages from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, he was taken by the word "Do." Wesley felt the word "Do" was a commandment from Jesus Christ. He didn't find any options in this passage. "Do this in memory of me." Wesley would say that we should serve communion every Sunday morning because it allows us to participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
A third step is to study the scriptures. Our United Methodist Ritual says that when communion is celebrated, the pastor is to pray, "When the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven, he promised to be with us always in the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit." The power of the word is the Bible. While we read the Bible, we read some of God's most important thoughts and desires. We discover God's greatest desires and the way to God.
The scriptures also inspire my prayer life. I am human. My knowledge and wisdom is very limited. Yet, every passage of scripture guides my prayer life and increases my understanding of God's wisdom. When I am attentive to God's wisdom, I experience a closeness to God made now through Jesus Christ.
Sisters and brothers, I pray that you will tend to your foundation.