15th April 2018
Witnesses on the Way
It has become such a cliché to describe life as a journey that many people in broadcast and written media have unofficially banned the word ‘journey’ as a description for any experience be it long or relatively short. The power of describing experience as journeying is so wonderfully attractive because for most of us whether we are going somewhere for the first time or we are travelling a well worn and familiar route there is always the potential for surprise.
For three years whilst travelling to Odstock Hospital (now Salisbury District General of ‘Russian’ chemical nerve agent fame) as we built the new building to replace the wartime temporary building I travelled the same 25 mile route. The journey was mundane but retained its capacity for the unusual. One morning I asked a colleague who shared a similar route to work if he had seen the car perched on top of a tall hedge which itself topped a high bank the evening before. The car must have been 20ft above the road with no obvious clue how it got there but was gone by the morning. Before he could reply he was punched sharply in the arm by his young female passenger as she yelled triumphantly – “See I told you I saw it!”
The two greatest festivals of the Christian calendar have within them tales of journeys where people see incredible things and their testimony is stretched to the limits of credulity, as witnesses to the truth.
At Christmas we hear stories of shepherds and wise men telling on their encounter with a small helpless babe, who just happens to be the Lord of all creation. The story of the wise men in particular invites the reflection that they return differently from how they arrived, as they are guided to return by a different route, for their safety and the safety of the child, as they avoid the threat of Herod.
At Easter we hear the story of the road to Emmaus as the two travellers first invite the stranger travelling with them into the security and rest of safe lodging, as the danger of darkness falls and they break their journey. Rest and safe lodging are forgotten once they realise the risen Jesus is their companion and they head straight back to Jerusalem, in disregard for the threat of darkness, as they are bursting to tell their friends the good news. On arrival the risk is not just the darkness, but the fact that their credulity is stretched until the light of truth enters the room.
Life is a journey with twists, turns and surprises, in both the new and the familiarly mundane. Encounters with Jesus can be so fleeting that we doubt ourselves that we have seen them, like the passenger in the car. They can be so transformative, that we come away differently like the wise men. And they can be so incredible, that even our friends struggle to believe us, like the travellers to Emmaus. Let us expect the unexpected as we travel and may we have the courage and confidence of our convictions, as we tell our story and may we have the gentleness and compassion, to resist punching somebody in the arm, even if it is only metaphorically, in our excitement to share good news. When we encounter Jesus our journey can never be the same.
Blessings of peace and grace.
Rev Nigel Rodgers