After an arduous journey Doctor Johnson has arrived at Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye. He is made welcome by Lady Macleod, and writes:
Here therefore we settled, and did not spoil the present hour with thoughts of departure.
Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, Samuel Johnson
Johnson, of course, was not a travelling missionary, but a tourist. However, I’m reminded of Jesus’ word to the 72 disciples as he sent them out:
Into whatsoever house you enter, first say: Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you. And in the same house, remain, eating and drinking such things as they have: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Remove not from house to house.
And there is plenty to be said for being at peace in our surroundings. May we be welcoming, and may we be the sort of tourist or visitor who does not have hosts thinking longingly of our departure.
Photograph of Dunvegan Castle: Pam Brophy, via Wikipedia
I shared these Welsh biscuits (Aberffraw biscuits) with my workmate after returning from Wales. They were traditionally baked in the shape of scallop shells as fare for pilgrims who would take ship at Aberffraw in Anglesey. A local bakery has revived the ancient recipe, adding lemon in this variety. (I did some research and found that St David could have tasted lemons as they had reached Rome in his time!)
There are many resonances to sharing a pilgrim’s biscuit. Both participate in a shared meal, a sort of bread broken between us. There is the journey and the return: like the twelve sent out by Jesus, I came home rejoicing, despite not having leant on him as they did (see Sister Johanna’s post on this topic in Luke’s gospel).
However, my family needed no second invitation when in Wales to obey one command of the Lord, and neither did my workmate in Canterbury:
And into what city soever you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. Luke 10:8.
Including pilgrim’s biscuits, which did not last long enough to become relics!
We found this plaque on the wall of our holiday house, so the Christian roots sink deeper there than at Minster Abbey in Kent, two modern or five ancient realms apart. Ty Gwyn – the White House – is walking distance from Saint David’s Cathedral; a short walk further is his birthplace. We were on holiday rather than pilgrimage, but that was part of the holiday too, even if we took plenty for the journey including changes of clothes, and a meal for the first evening. We did use the local shops after that.
Sister Johanna of Minster Abbey wrote this reflection for us, about the preaching pilgrimage Jesus set up for his disciples. This was David’s way of life as a missionary bishop. As well as preaching, he was known as a healer.
He called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for the journey; neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and do not have a spare tunic…. . So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and healing everywhere. Luke 9: 1-4,6.
I’m ashamed to admit that I usually go blank when I read this passage from the Gospel of Luke. But, today I lingered over the words, repeating them over and over gently in my mind, in order to give the Holy Spirit all the time necessary to help me find my way through this text. And before long, things began to happen.
I first noticed the words, ‘He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.’ To proclaim and to heal. Jesus is not a man of words only, but of words and deeds: and here, the deeds are deeds of healing. Deeds of life, therefore. Jesus wanted his disciples not merely to tell, but show that he, Jesus, was a man who could bring about change – change of the most important kind. This, for ordinary people, is vital. And ordinary people, hard workers, carrying a burden of responsibility and of sorrow – these are the ones Jesus was trying to reach.
The Twelve were also given ‘power and authority over all devils’ – well and good, surely. Good for the Twelve. Jesus was commissioning them here, and he knew that Satan would try to undermine their efforts, their confidence, everything. But Jesus doesn’t suggest to the Twelve that they walk up to the ordinary man on the street and announce, ‘I have been given power and authority over all devils’. Imagine it. I rather think that then, as now, the reaction of the man on the street to such an approach would have been one of hasty withdrawal from that apostle, a withdrawal of eye contact, a striding in the opposite direction, and throwing only the quickest of backward glances to make sure that apostle wasn’t following. But the authority to cure diseases was something else. This was something the Twelve could use, and ordinary people would respond to. The Twelve were the primary ones who needed to know that Jesus’ power was greater than Satan’s – but the ordinary people were the ones who needed to see real results. And Jesus is happy to respond to this need.
Jesus isn’t finished with the Twelve yet. He has more instructions – and they are strange ones. First, ‘Take nothing with you for the journey.’ Imagine what it would have been like for the Twelve to hear that. It was probably not possible for them to exchange puzzled glances with each other right then, but they must have wondered incredulously, “Whoever heard of someone being so crazy as to set out on an important journey without packing?” But the subtext here is in words Jesus uses elsewhere, ‘Your heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask him.’ Rely on him. You are going out to do his work. He will provide. The labourer deserves his wages. Jesus, anticipating their questions, perhaps, goes on to make the nature of God’s providence perfectly clear by detailing the things they were not supposed to take:
‘No staff’ to lean on as you walk. Lean on me, he suggests.
‘No haversack.’ Right. He already said ‘take nothing with you.’ No, not even an empty bag to put things in once the gifts start coming. You are not to stockpile.
‘No bread.’ I am the bread of life. You will have food of a different sort to sustain you. Your fathers had manna in the wilderness. You will be fed.
‘No money.’ Why? Because I am your wealth. People long for me more than for money. Offer me to them free of charge. They – or enough, anyway – will fall all over themselves to help you whenever you have a need.
‘No spare tunic.’ No, not even a change of clothes. Some people will welcome you so fully into their lives that they will seem to adopt you. You will be like their son. You will want for nothing.
And now, I place myself for a moment in the sandals of one of the Twelve, imagining myself going on this missionary journey. With nothing. I feel exposed, vulnerable. Very. But only for a moment. Then I remember that this is always a very good thing in the spiritual life. Self-assurance is worth very little in my relationship with Jesus. I think of how it’s been when I have gone off on my own to pursue projects that did not originate in Jesus. Self-assurance, therefore, is not what Jesus wants to inculcate in the Twelve on this, their first missionary endeavour – or in me, ever. He wants us to rely on him utterly – and on ourselves, never.
And off they go. The program was successful beyond their wildest dreams. ‘They went from village to village proclaiming the good news and healing everywhere.’ Everywhere.
Another extract from Rev Jo Richards’ daily updates. The Good Shepherd statue is in St Mildred’s Church, within her benefice.
Good morning to you all, and hope this finds you well, as we are here. With respect to the possibility of opening our church buildings for private prayer: thank you to those who have offered to help with cleaning, which we will need to do, and continue to do as and when we do open.
Our reading this morning for morning prayer was that of Mary and Martha, and the phrase that leapt out at me when reading it was “Marta, Martha, you are worried and distracted by so many things; there is need for only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” Luke 10:41-2. This has certainly been a time for some, and by no means all, to sit quietly at the feet of Jesus, and listen, to be, rather than constantly doing. We can (and I for one) can so easily be distracted by so many things. We are after all, ‘human beings and not human doings’ (one of my favourite sayings of Richard Rhor). Today in our liturgy we have been asked to remember Saint Columba, of the Iona community, who founded monasteries both in Ireland, and on Iona, which to this day remains a place for pilgrimages and retreats. Please find attached some information regarding retreats from St Augustine’s College of theology, for retreats from home. Morning Prayer:https://youtu.be/t8RPstCVxqE Scams: Please be aware that there are scams around re track and trace (see attached, from Jeanie Armstrong), but please do be careful God Bless you all, and keep connected, keep praying and keep safe Jo🙏🙏🙏
“A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.” Proverbs 11.1.
This Nineteenth Century kitchen balance was an heirloom from our next-door neighbour, Kay; it would have been interesting to hear the story of how she came to have it! It came with an incomplete set of iron wights, each one marked ‘VR’ underneath to tell that they were trustworthy because they had undergone official testing. A false balance is an abomination to society for obvious reasons. You can read here how Channel Island farmers used big stones chipped down to useful weights to measure produce for sale.
Their old French quintal weights would be no use to Abel and me, and nor would the few pounds and ounces that came with the scales, since he will think in grams and kilos – though his mother and auntie speak about their children’s weights in stones!
No, Abel takes delight in these just weights, because we get good results when we follow a recipe to cook using them – and I take delight in his delight.
Just weights are a form of speaking the truth; the different British, Jersey-French and Metric systems may differ, but by carefully comparing them and using them consistently, we can always get delightful results.
And where Bible texts differ, as in the two versions of the Lord’s Prayer,* we can enjoy carefully and prayerfully puzzling out the differences and so take delight in them.
Our Friend Christina has been reflecting on the virus more head on than we have, with some thoughts on death and Mary. I’ll let you Read her reflection here.
What I wanted to pick out of it was her opening: “Son, why have you done this to us?” Luke 2:48, which comes from the story of Jesus ‘lost and found’ in hs youth. Christina goes on:
[On Good Friday evening] Memories flooded over her of that evening (… was it only a couple of days or a couple of decades ago?…) when she walked through the caravan of pilgrims to gather her son to her for the night, and she could not find Him. He wasn’t there … and the words of the holy man Simeon had come back to her as she felt a sword of anxiety pierce her heart with love for her missing child.
But she did not stop him on his pilgrimage to Calvary. And on the third day, this time he came looking for her.
A Reflection on the “Walk to Emmaus” from Luke’s Gospel by David Bex and Vincent Dunkling of L’Arche Kent.
How many of us have been on that road to Emmaus? A journey that is full of emotions that stop us from being able to recognise where we are in our lives. A journey that throws obstacles in the way of asking for help? A journey that we feel has no end.
Mental health provision in this country is so poor that there are thousands who are on this road to Emmaus and are not getting the help they need.
Pope Benedict sought to bring renewal to his guests at a Christmas meal.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. Butthey urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled togetherand saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
Luke. 24: 28-35
Jesus continued on as if he was going further. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
During this week of Pilgrimage, we’ve been following the faith journey of the two travellers on the road to Emmaus. And hopefully their story has encouraged us in our own faith, to understand more deeply who Jesus is, and to walk with a renewed sense of his presence in our lives.
Jesus never pushes himself upon us. As he waited for the travellers to ask him to stay, so he waits for us to invite him into our lives. They didn’t know it was the risen Jesus walking with them on the road – but they knew that their hearts had warmed as he spoke to them of the Scriptures and the purposes of God.
And they really wanted to have him with them for longer. They welcomed their new friend. And because of their spirit of hospitality towards him, they were brought into a wonderful fellowship with the risen Lord – so by the time he left them, they not only recognised who he was, but they also knew that he had given their lives a new hope and a new purpose.
If we share that same purpose and hope in Jesus, risen from the dead, we don’t have to keep on asking him to stay with us, because we know that he’s with us all the time. We just have to make sure that we stay with him – especially when times are difficult. He is always faithful. It is we who sometimes aren’t.
May we, like the two travellers on the road to Emmaus, find ourselves more enthused by God’s purposes for us and for the world, and more willing for Jesus to reveal himself to us; willing to welcome him into our lives and homes.
Rupert Greville contributed today’s reflection on the Emmaus story and tomorrow’s. The swallow returns and so will Jesus.
Bible reading: Luke 24:25-27.
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
The two travellers had told of what had happened in Jerusalem, that Jesus had been crucified and that his tomb had been found empty. ‘Did not the messiah have to suffer these things, and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself.
Jesus gave these travellers the best Bible study ever. And he showed how the whole of the scriptures pointed to his coming – and to his suffering and his death. While the travellers knew about the suffering and death, as they’d been in the city, maybe they didn’t understand so much about the Messiah ‘entering his glory’.
The father had raised him from the dead and set him in the highest place over all of creation, seen and unseen. So the Messiah of Israel would be the true Lord, not Caesar, and Lord over every world power that would ever come after, whether in Europe, Asia, the Americas or the South Pacific. And he continues to reign today as Lord over all. And if Jesus is Lord, then we have a sure hope for ourselves and the world.
Today our daily bird is the swallow. (Each day of the pilgrimage there was a bird to look out for.) The swallow spends its winter in South Africa, so if you have swallows nesting in your barn, you’ll see them fly off in September and you won’t see them again for months. Then, amazingly, about this time of year, the same bird flies back to exactly the same place it left 7 months before, to rear its young. So they leave in September, and we wonder, will they come back, and they do.
Jesus promised that he’d return to reign on earth, destroying all evil and bringing healing to the nations, and that his people will share in his eternal rule. If we can trust the swallows to return from South Africa, we can surely trust that Jesus, having entered his glory, will return again to reign.