Recently, we watched a film called “The Way.” In it a father, Martin Sheen, ends up walking the pilgrimage road of “El camino de Santiago:” the way of St. James, in the footsteps of his son, who has died on The Way. The father is a self-made American dentist and a reluctant pilgrim. In his grief and bewilderment, he fights shy of the inevitable relationships made possible by journeying on this very long walk from the Pyrenees through to the Spanish Atlantic coast. However, there is something inev itable about these relationships as they gather around him rather like snow to a rolling snowball. Each person is handling a difficult issue. Not all of these are resolved and yet in the sharing of food, accommodation, stories and a common footpath, each of the four central characters finds some sense of peace.
There is a famous story in Mark’s gospel (Mk 10:46-52) when a blind man named Bartimaeus has his sight restored by Jesus. After this stunning miracle, Mark makes a throw-away line: ‘Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.’ The Way is the ancient name for following Jesus, before the name “Christian” was given to believers in Acts 11:26. The notion of being on The Way connects with our sermon series of Journeying Together that I mentioned in the last Vicar’s letter. Much like the film that I described, gathering together in the same place, sharing common food, and the same footpath are all things that would describe our Christian lives on The Way. But before all of that there is an invitation to start the journey. It was clear for Bartimaeus. After begging on the roadside for years, he was now able to see again. For Martin Sheen the grief and unresolved relationship with his son prompted him to set out. It’s different for each one of us, but common to us all is the whisper that pull on our souls inviting us to take the first step on The Way. Perhaps this is a moment you could recall that whisper on your heart and regain your sense of what keeps you on The Way?
It is the Lord Jesus Christ who calls us to follow him on The Way. We may think it is too hard to get up and start walking, but our sermon series from Exodus has shown that God makes every provision for us both to get going and keep on our feet. Remember the Passover when Ancient Hebrews were about to be delivered from slavery in Egypt. As they ate the sacrificial lamb and trusted in the provision that God made they were protected by its blood on the doors of their houses. God set them free for their journey. We know this too. It is re-written on the cross of Jesus Christ. As we trust in the enormity and sufficiency of his death and resurrection, as the Lamb of God, so too we are set free to make our first footsteps. Of course, keeping going feels like an entirely different thing. The wonderful thing is that God does not leave us on our own, because others will want to join in too, as God calls them to their feet. We’ve seen this over the last few weeks at Morning Prayer it has been wonderful to share times of prayer and bible reading with as many as eleven people. The Lord gives us pilgrims to walk with and there is room for more at 8:30am on Monday to Thursday in the Chapel at Holy Apostles.
More than that, Jesus gives us himself. Why do we walk The Way. We walk to find God, to experience him at new and deeper depths in our lives. We walk that he might transform our hearts and lives in the rhythm of each step. Part of that rhythm is being still and allowing God to speak in our worship, in our prayer life and as we read the scriptures together. That’s not all! We have learned how the ancient Israelites were given manna from heaven in the desert part of their journey so they might survive by a daily miracle of God’s provision. As Christians, the Lord Jesus Christ gave us Holy Communion: bread and wine for the journey. Broken bread and shared wine that binds us to his sacrifice on the cross. In the words of one Eucharistic Prayer “as we eat and drink these holy gifts in the presence of your divine majesty, renew us by your Spirit, inspire us with your love and unite us in the body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” As a community that is journeying together alongside our commitment to meet daily in prayer, we will consider how Holy Communion might better support us on this journey too. Here we are promised that we will encounter God in the renewing grace of his Holy Spirit. This draws us closer together in the life of our Christian Community of St Mary’s with Holy Apostles as we journey on The Way.
With Blessings from Richard.