Then people shall come from east and west, north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Luke 13:29.
This is a great statement of Jesus against any prejudice or discrimination in the formation of the kingdom of God. To be part of the work of God does not depend on our origins, orientation, culture or experience of life but on our response to the grace of God in the gospel.
Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. Mark 16: 15
Among his words to his disciples he calls them to go beyond all human divisions and barriers for the sake of offering the Gospel. They were to leave behind all that claimed to define them. They were on a journey with the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This alone was to make them distinctive. They may have been Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female but these important characteristics were a journey to take with the Gospel not a track to stay on.
There is one journey. The journey of the Gospel. It began just a short distance from an empty tomb. And is still continuing today – He is risen, Hallelujah. It is a journey of many paths.
They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, Fellowship, sharing meals together and the prayers. Acts 2:42
Before they were even called Christians, the first believers started that journey nurtured and sustained by four experiences: learning the stories of Jesus, companionship, sharing their mealtimes and praying together. Whatever shape the Church has since taken these have been food to accompany the Journey of the Gospel across the ages.
Whoever has become a Christian pilgrim of whatever culture, gender or status these have been good for the soul –learning, sharing eating and praying.
After some decades of that learning, sharing, eating and praying some four gospels emerged from the first churches. And so began the many paths which Christians have pursued. People wanted to present the Gospel in different ways which would appeal to the context in which they were living.
Long before there were Methodists or Baptists, LEPs or denominations – Wesley hymns or Billy Graham sermons – Christian Aid Week or Christmas Carol services – popes or theological professors there has been THE JOURNEY.
I sat hot and tired eating my sandwiches, boots off, legs dangling over the ledge and watched others climbing up the sides of Yr Wyddfa. One journey but six paths. Each came from a different direction. Each provided different opportunities to walk, climb, scramble. Each presented their own difficulties. Occasionally you could see lines of people toiling up behind each other – going the pace of the slowest. Then someone would break away and seek a different route, trying to create their own path.
One journey many paths. What we all had was the desire to climb.
But what of the journey of the Gospel; Easter faith born of the grace of God? What is its destination? To what do we climb?
Recently I watched a performance of the Shakespeare play ‘As you like it’. In it there is the speech of the rogue Jacques ‘All the world’s a stage’. It is a world-weary, bitter, cynical description of our journey through life – at the end is obliteration –‘sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything’.
But that is one way of looking at our life – in the end there is nothing but obliteration.
But the journey of the Gospel offers another word – completion.
In Christ all shall be made new even to the creation of a new heaven and a new earth.
There is one journey and many paths in the company of Christ through the ups and downs and twists and turns of the world but we end up looking at the view and can cry ‘at last, it’s complete, it may have been a bit of a winter’s tale but all’s well that’s ends well.’
Is that the journey you are on?
God of the Journey and the many paths – present with us in our time of life – companion in all that’s wonderful and awful in the world today – help us to nurture each other in the ways of belief and prayer – your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, deliver us from all that is evil for yours is the kingdom and the power and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Rev John Rackley Pentecost 2023