LETTER FROM THE MANSE
When many of us think of the Canary islands, we tend to imagine sunny skies, vast expanses of sand and a jolly good relaxing holiday. My wife and I are recently back from there, except our experience wasn’t quite as idyllic as the one portrayed in the travel agent’s window. Wet, wind-blown and battered by horizontal rain would be a more accurate description of our vacation and the island in question was one that few (if any) have ever heard of, let alone visited. In many ways, it turned out to be like the ‘island that time forgot’ – a volcanic outcrop in the stormy Atlantic surrounded by very steep cliffs. Our walking holiday on El Hierro was ‘challenging’ to say the least. As soon as our little propeller plane touched the airstrip at the edge of the Atlantic ocean and we disembarked and started to make our way up the formidable escarpment to the top of the island, we knew that we were in for some strenuous physical experiences. One good thing was the fact that, although we undertook the walks as a couple alone, there were constant and reliable indicators to show us that we were always on the right path. Little coloured rectangles painted on walls, wooden posts or big stones were helpful signs which told us we were ‘still on track’. And clever little painted crosses, left us in no doubt that these were roads that we shouldn’t be tempted to go down. When we were faced with a choice as to which direction to take, these island signs kept us right. They reassured us.
After Easter and the resurrection, Jesus famously appears to two of his disciples. Like many of us today, they too were confused and in despair over a world seemingly gone mad, not only seeing the principles of the world around them being shaken but living in fear for their own lives. They were coping with the aftermath and horrors of the crucifixion. As we wrestle with a post-Covid world, global warming, and the unending atrocities in the Ukraine which threaten to spill over into Europe and bring our planet to unthinkable war it would seem that we are all on that road to Emmaus.
But, something happens on this road. Christ joins the disciples, walks beside them, and opens their hearts with his conversation in a way that is so overwhelming, that the world no longer seems to be the crazy place that it was, and his words which encourage us to love our neighbour, pray for our enemies, forgive all, welcome the stranger and refugee, care for the sick and provide for the least among us – are as relevant today as they were two thousand years ago.
Frederick Buechner once wrote: ‘I believe that whether we recognise him or not, or believe in him or not, or even know his name, again and again Christ comes and walks a little way with us along whatever road we're following…..he offers us new hope and a new vision of light that not even the dark world can overcome.’
No matter the state of our world, our confusion, or the conditions in which we find ourselves, he leaves clear signposts. Reassuring, is it not, that in this wonderful, challenging, bewildering journey that is Life, that he walks alongside us, quietly showing us the right path?
With all good wishes.
Rev Stan (April 2022)