May is a month chocked full of special events. Not only do we have Mother’s Day on the 13th reminding us to thank and cherish the women who bless us in so many ways, but there’s also May Day (May 1st), Star War’s Day (May the 4th be with you!), Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) and Memorial Day (May 28th). And I’m sure the young people wouldn’t want me to forget about National Clean Your Room Day on May 10th!
And then there’s May 14th, which in 1804 marked the beginning of an important event in American History—the Lewis and Clark Expedition. President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Captain Meriwether Lewis and his friend Second Lieutenant William Clark, to lead a group in exploring and mapping the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. So the small group left St. Louis to travel 8000 miles over a period of 2 years, four months, and 10 days. It’s a famous journey, but we sometimes forget that these early explorers didn’t always have it easy. For example:
- On at least one occasion, Lewis and Clark got lost. In June 1805 they unexpectedly came upon a fork in the Missouri. Since the Missouri was their route through the mountains, they had to figure out which fork to take. After a week of investigation, and two separate expeditions, Lewis and Clark decided to take the south fork. Everyone else in the party disagreed with them, but Lewis and Clark turned out to be right.
- On April 29, 1805, Lewis and another hunter killed a large grizzly bear. Grizzly bears were still largely unknown to science. Another grizzly bear got some revenge on June 14th, 1805. While exploring the river’s edge, Lewis shot a bison and as he was waiting for it to die, a grizzly bear snuck up on him and chased him into the river.
- The party usually lived on wild game, but when food got scarce, they would frequently dine on dog meat. At one point the starving group was reduced to eating horses, candles, and portable soup.
- On the return trip, Lewis got a little behind in his work when he was accidentally shot in the posterior by a member of the team named Pierre Cruzatte. Cruzatte was nearsighted, and mistook Lewis for an elk.
Explorers were essential in the exploration and settling of the American Continent, and I’m not just talking about the European settlement of the land. When the Pilgrims arrived to settle Plymouth Colony in 1620, they were touching down on a continent already inhabited by native people who had themselves explored and pioneered America 10,000 years previously!
Explorers are essential in the life of the church as well, and this is a good time to notice and appreciate the explorers among us. So our hats are off to those people who have broken new ground, and led us through uncertain times. Maple Avenue is blessed with an unusually large number of talented and innovative people, and we celebrate all of them!
This is also a good time to recognize that we live in a changing world and our whole congregation is in a real sense engaged in a journey of exploration. Like Lewis and Clark, we need to try different things, check out new rivers and paths, and find untapped resources. Like them we need to brave unexpected challenges, overcome setbacks, connecting with people in innovative ways. And like them we will sometimes take a wrong turn or have to tighten our belts.
We are on a journey of exploration, but we never travel alone. Jesus Christ travels with us, the Holy Spirit empowers us, and God continually calls us forward to that Kingdom of love and grace. It is an adventure. There are many people in the world who like to play it safe avoiding uncertainty. There’s nothing wrong with that. But we are explorers and pioneers, and I thank you for traveling with us!
In God's Peace;