Being A People Of The Way
Bible Readings: Acts 9:1-6 & Luke 24: 13-32
During my last holidays, I caught up with a couple of friends who had walked 800 kilometres across France and Spain in a pilgrimage called ‘The Camino de Santiago’ or ‘The Way of Saint James’.
Two hundred thousand people a year do this pilgrimage – ‘sacred’ walk as pilgrims have done for over a thousand years. I was keen to find out from both of them – the reasons why they did the walk and what has changed in their lives since they completed the walk.
Interestingly they spoke about the importance of the journey as well as the destination. For them it was the relationships they made with people, and the stories shared and then it was the realisation of the fragility of life and the transience of those newly created relationships as people went back to their old or new life journeys.
They met a Frenchman who had been transformed by the journey. He set out to give up his faith at the journey’s conclusion – he had probably been abused by his church or even its failure to act. Instead of throwing away his faith at the end of the pilgrimage, he picked it up again.
Christians and non-Christians alike take this journey.
It is interesting to note that before Christians were called that name, they were called by Paul and others in the decades following Jesus’ crucifixion and ascension, as ‘People of the Way’ [Acts 9:2].
In the Bible we often see significant events as people are on a journey – think of Noah and Moses and Jacob in the Old Testament.
In the Gospels, Jesus had many significant moments as he journeyed through Israel, Jordan and Samaria.
In today’s readings we see transformations as disciples of Jesus journey forward.
In Acts, many of us know, the road to Damascus story well. Saul [later Paul], on his way to destroy the new Christian faith, is confronted by the risen Jesus. He is made blind to ‘his old ways’ and has new vision and outlook after he reaches his new destination [a spiritual as well as physical destination].
His life is transformed and, of course, we know that his journey continued and included at least three amazing mission trips across much of the known world.
Then, in the Lukan gospel passage, again we see the impact of the risen Jesus upon two of the believers as they journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus.
Their journey sees the penny drop, not during the journey but at the resting point of the end of the day as they took a meal and the gospel says ‘their eyes were opened and they recognised him’.
Our lives are largely about moving forward. But there are punctuation points – points where we stop to celebrate, to reflect, to consider new journeys, and to relate these experiences of being on the way.
In the Christian life there are many significant stopping places to do these things. In the last week we have had Brian’s funeral, then a day later a wedding, another wedding yesterday and a service of Thanksgiving and Blessing today.
And shortly we will celebrate with the risen Jesus, the holy sacrament of the Eucharist. Like the two believers who stopped their journey temporarily and they broke bread with Jesus – to have their eyes opened – we also are invoked to have our eyes opened again and to see our lives transformed again!
But the journey continues, the people of the way are called to continue to be the people on the way.
Church is a stopping point, it is also a refueling point – for us to be able to face the journey of the week ahead.
If it is the once a week God thing to do or merely becomes the destination – it is wasted. If we already have a full unused tank, there is no need to refuel.
Two questions to leave you with –
What is church for you?
What continuing impact does Jesus have on your life’s journey?
Let’s say together a most relevant section from our Basis of Union – from Paragraph 3…
The Church as the fellowship of the Holy Spirit confesses Jesus as Lord over its own life; it also confesses that Jesus is Head over all things, the beginning of a new creation, of a new humanity. God in Christ has given to all people in the Church the Holy Spirit as a pledge and foretaste of that coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation. The Church’s call is to serve that end: to be a fellowship of reconciliation, a body within which the diverse gifts of its members are used for the building up of the whole, an instrument through which Christ may work and bear witness to himself. The Church lives between the time of Christ’s death and resurrection and the fi nal consummation of all things which Christ will bring; the Church is a pilgrim people, always on the way towards a promised goal; here the Church does not have a continuing city but seeks one to come. On the way Christ feeds the Church with Word and Sacraments, and it has the gift of the Spirit in order that it may not lose the way.