Summary: Your Heart’s Road Is More Important than the Henday (a highway located in Edmonton, AB) 1) It cost more to build. 2) It leads to a better destination. 3) Keep it well maintained!

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Motorists travelling around Edmonton now have access to 21 more kilometres of free-flowing road thanks to the recent completion of the northwest leg of Anthony Henday Drive. Construction began three years ago and cost $1.42 billion. That’s over $67.6 million per kilometer, $67,600 per meter, or $676 per centimeter! No, they didn’t pave the road with gold; they had to build 27 bridge structures which contributed to the hefty price tag. What do you think? Was it worth it? I have yet to hear any complaints. People love being able to get to the airport from St. Albert in a half-hour now instead of 45 minutes.

The Henday may be the new darling in the Capitol Region but our sermon text this morning speaks about an even more fantastic highway. Your heart’s road is more important than the Henday because it cost more to build, it leads to a better destination, and so we’ll want to keep it well maintained.

If you were part of the crew building the Henday, you would have worn a hard hat and orange vest to work every day. That’s not how the construction crew who works on your heart’s road usually dresses, however, especially not the one at work 2,000 years ago. John the Baptist, who had been called to prepare hearts for Jesus, wore a camel skin coat with a leather belt. His lunch kit didn’t hold salami sandwiches but fistfuls of locusts and a lick of wild honey. The strangest thing about John, however, was his tools. He didn’t have a jackhammer or operate a dump truck. He used God’s Word and the sacrament of Holy Baptism to prepare hearts for the coming of King Jesus. I’m comparing John to a road worker because this is how the prophet Isaiah described him. He foretold that John would be a voice calling out in the desert to “make straight paths for [the Lord]” (Mark 1:3b). John’s message was meant for us too as we prepare for Jesus’ coming at Christmas as well as for his coming on Judgment Day.

But do you know how difficult it is to make straight paths? Even with bulldozers it still took 2.7 million man-hours for the Henday workers to wrestle from the bush 21 kilometers of paved road. To put that into perspective, it means that had you worked on that project alone putting in 40-hour weeks, it would have taken you almost 1300 years to complete! Even if anyone was able to survive that many Alberta winters, this is a project that no one could accomplish on their own. I mean what would happen to the completed stretches of highway while you worked on the new? They would be ruined by snow and ice unless you could somehow continue to maintain them while building new road. Impossible!

It’s just as impossible to build a smooth highway for God to come to our hearts. A lot of people think they have done it, however. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day was one such group and outwardly they had seemed to straighten out all crookedness. They made the study of God’s Word a priority. They gave generous donations to synagogue and temple. They fasted so they had more time to pray. (When’s the last time you skipped lunch so you would have more time to pray?) But what the Pharisees couldn’t fix was their love for people’s praise at how “wonderful” they were. In fact this is what was motivating their show of piety.

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