The clouds cleared; the sun shone in a wintry looking sky; time for a walk.
In the last 6 months I think I have seen more of the local countryside than in the previous 6 years. Each walk is unique, even when the path has been followed many times. Crops come and go; leaf colour changes as the seasons advance. Some walks are solitary, others sociable. Some paths are well trodden and open whilst others are overgrown. Animals, birds and insects all changing with the seasons. Such is the rich variety on our doorstep.
A good walk is about the journey, not the destination. To appreciate that journey; to enjoy the ever-changing pattern that speaks of life, it is necessary to lay aside our own preoccupations and pay attention to the sights and sounds around us. As we journey, our ability to read the countryside grows with experience. We learn when to take sun cream or don winter woollies; when to wear heavy boots or light trainers; when to turn back or when to push on. The more I observe, the more I come to understand.
In prison for offending King Herod, John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus to ask “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” For John, this was critical, but instead of saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’; Jesus tells John to consider the evidence of what he sees and hears; ‘the blind see, the deaf hear ….’ (Matt 11:2-5). He then turns to the crowd and says “Let anyone with ears listen”. Can you understand the evidence of your own eyes?
Today, more than ever, we are equipped to journey through life in our own, self-reinforcing bubble. Walking down a busy street, eyes fixed on a miniature computer screen; jogging along a country path, ears plugged with our own choice of music; news media, social media, public media; ‘man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest’ (Simon & Garfunkle – The Boxer).
Our ability, or lack of it, to see, hear and understand God at work is a recurring theme for both the prophets and Jesus. In Jesus’ own ministry, three signs appear repeatedly: the sick are healed, the dead raised, the poor hear the good news (that God cares for them) (eg Matt 11: 4-6; Lk 10:9). Blessing is declared on those prepared to come out of their self-imposed bubble, look and listen.
The world is like a country walk at the change of the season. Crops have been harvested, leaves are changing colour, some paths are wide open; others more challenging. As we take our daily exercise, can we see God at work and hear his call; or do we simply hear what we want to hear, and disregard the rest?
Rev. Philip Payne
The Pew Sheet for 25th October can be found in Downloads