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Day’s course ending 8 April 2017

Posted by Dr Moose in Faith, Life, Ponderings.
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The day is nearly over and the sun has long ago finished it’s course over the lands of my daylight. I can’t comment on the location of my much-beloved moon as I can.t see out of the window from here. I’ve spent much of the day on my feet, working what used to be called an Applicant Visit Day at the university but this year known as a Discovery Day. Through all of it I’ve not travelled far, except in time, certainly nowhere near the distance that should be expected had I spent all day on the road, or in the yet more profligate consumption of carbon-based fuels in going about by plane. It all makes the theme for the day, that of journey, seem relatively insignificant.

Navigator BlooseDespite this personal reflection, of this one particular day, travel is something we tend to take for granted, even before we consider the journey in time as well as the journey in distance, in space. The furthest I have ever driven in one day was, I think, from Leicester to Newcastle to pretty much the Scottish border (Berwick or Alnwick, I can’t remember) and then back, although I’m sure that others can top that.

What is certain is that we are creatures who travel. Despite the idea that distant travel has been historically rare there is plenty of evidence to call that into question, whether in the travels of Norse explorers through the heartlands of Russian right through to Byzantium, or the exchange of ideas and trade goods between the Roman Empire and China, or even in the Middle Ages pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostella, or the crusades fought over the possession of Jerusalem. Even within England and Wales as early as 1601, or even earlier, there were measures put in place to provide for the common enough expense of caring for those in economic hardship who had travelled far from their places of birth (the so-called Old Poor Law). Without mechanised transport, or even without frequent recourse to horse or wagon it’s quite possible with effort an determination to travel considerable distances. Perhaps many, if not most, if us are accustomed to cheating, but walking 20 miles in a day is far from unreasonable, except, perhaps in our own minds. Mass travel may have been uncommon until the last century or so, but not the phenomenon.

Maybe with this in mind we can think about some of the journeys found in the Bible, Jesus crisscrossed what we now think of as the Holy Land and St Paul moved through much of Asia Minor and the Near East, taking the Gospel to the inhabitants. In the light of such travels and experience we are forced to possibly reconsider our understanding of the Exodus of the Israelites in the stories of the Old Testament. The practicalities of the journey from the land of Goshen in Egypt to the lands of Canaan across the River Jordan cannot be understood as taking literally forty years unless some very long stopovers are included, making it a period of wandering rather a period of purely travelling from A to B (even without examining the contention that ‘forty years’ or ‘forty days’ is actually a Hebrew turn of phrase for ‘a long time’ – other comparative linguistic devices exist after all, such as the colloquial English expression that something  is ‘taking ages’ when it patently isn’t, or the literal French phrase ‘tout la monde’ – all the world – to mean ‘everybody.)’

The journey, though, is not something simply consigned to the literal and physical realm. We may think of the journey of life, or the mythical hero’s journey, or that of J R R Tolkein’s The Hobbit (or There and Back Again). We use the terminology with regard to our personal journeys of faith (such as from doubt to faith). Perhaps, more appropriately we might think of our journey through Lent, the forty day progression from Ash Wednesday to Easter, as it mirrors the move of Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, and all that transpires with it, even the journey through death and grave to the Resurrection and Eternal Life beyond it.

An appropriate place to stop this journey, however, might be in the words of Sydney Carter’s folk-hymn that has stuck with me, and grown on me, over the years.

One more step along the world I go,
one more step along the world I go;
from the old things to the new
keep me travelling along with you:

And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
keep me travelling along with you.

Round the corner of the world I turn,
more and more about the world I learn;
all the new things that I see
you’ll be looking at along with me:

As I travel through the bad and good,
keep me traveling the way I should;
where I see no way to go
you’ll be telling me the way, I know:

Give me courage when the world is rough,
keep me loving though the world is tough;
leap and sing in all I do,
keep me travelling along with you:

You are older than the world can be,
you are younger than the life in me;
ever old and ever new,
keep me travelling along with you:

Words © 1971 by Stainer & Bell Ltd.

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