Today our reflection has been prepared by Anne Shave.

Anne leads monthly services at the St Andrews at Rangi Ruru chapel for the congregation who are now part of The Village Church family.

Over the last few weeks Martin and Anne Stewart have shared with us some lovely pictures from The Camino de Santiago. Over the past few years this ancient pilgrimage walk has been completed by many thousands of people from all over the world. Approximately 325,000 people walked the Camino in 2018 alone.

In October 2010 I (Anne Shave) was privileged to be able to join with three others on another (much shorter) walk with significance for Christians – St Cuthbert’s Way. This is a walk of 100 kilometres from Melrose in Scotland to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, off the northeast coast of England. Our group is pictured here on the border of Scotland and England. (I am on the left, looking windswept.) In the picture below my walking companions are standing in front of St Cuthbert’s cave, a site where monks from Lindisfarne brought St Cuthbert’s body for safe-keeping in AD875, following Viking raids on Holy Island. Today’s gospel reading is about another walk, a walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Although this walk was one of just seven miles (approximately 11km) it was one with profound significance for those who were present (Cleopas and his companion). The account of this walk has continued to provide great encouragement to Christians throughout the past 2000 years, and it is quite possible that Luke 24:13-35 may be a favourite Scripture passage for some of you.

It is certainly a passage that I have, over the years, enjoyed reading slowly, imagining myself walking alongside those discouraged disciples who met that wonderful stranger on the road. Confusion to clarity; discouragement to hope It is the third day after Jesus’ death. The tomb is open and Jesus’ body is missing. His followers are bewildered and distraught. They had hoped that Jesus – this man who “was a prophet and was considered by God and by all the people to be powerful in everything he said and did” would “be the one who was going to set Israel free.” But things haven’t turned out the way they had hoped. They have already left Jerusalem. They are confused and deeply discouraged. As many of us will have learned from painful experience, confusion and discouragement can be catalysts for growth in faith. An awareness of our own inadequate understanding can lead us to seek answers and be genuinely open to new insights. Discouragement can make us aware of our own limitations and prompt us to pray. It can stimulate us to strengthen the foundations of our relationship with God. But confusion and discouragement can also cause us to go round and round in circles in our thinking – which seems to be what was happening for these disciples in the early stages of their walk to Emmaus.

Jesus joins them but they do not recognise him. They continue to thrash out their concerns and their doubts about the validity of the women’s report of a vision of angels who had told them that Jesus was alive. As they walk, Jesus responds to their confusion and discouragement with great patience. He explains what is said about himself in all the Scriptures “beginning with the books of Moses and the writings of all the prophets”. Deepening (though partial) clarity supplants the disciples’ confusion; hope displaces discouragement.
When Jesus breaks bread with the disciples, praying for God’s blessing, they finally understand and believe that he has risen from the dead. It is through a familiar action that “their eyes are opened” and they recognise Jesus. This marks the beginning of another journey – both literally (the disciples immediately return to Jerusalem) and figuratively (as they begin to learn what it means be disciples of the risen Lord). Can you imagine how different their conversation must have been on the walk back?!

Thinking more about pilgrimage
The end of St Cuthbert’s Way: The three-mile long road from the mainland to Holy Island (which can only be used at low tide) was not constructed until 1954 and until then vertical poles, pictured below, were the only indicators of the safe route between the mainland and island. Pilgrims still follow this route as they walk across the mud to reach the island. When our group traversed this final stretch of St Cuthbert’s Way the water was freezing, the wind was fierce and the rain occasionally horizontal. It was difficult! But these challenges increased our sense of accomplishment once we had completed the journey.

Questions for contemplation:

• Do any of the pictures included in today’s service reflect your experience at the moment? Do you feel that you are at a border or crossroads? Do you find yourself in a place of refuge? Are you struggling because of external factors over which you have no control? Why not talk with God about these things?
• Can you think of a time in the past when you felt confused or discouraged about your faith? What helped you to find hope or greater clarity? How might recalling that experience be helpful to you at the moment?
• Perhaps you are feeling discouraged or have doubts about your faith right now. If so, it may help to remember that even the disciples who were closest to Jesus had their moments. Hang in there. If it is helpful, perhaps you might phone and talk to someone who may offer you a fresh perspective?
• After recognising that Jesus had risen from the dead Cleopas and his companion immediately walked 11 kilometres back to Jerusalem (presumably at night) to share the good news with the other disciples. How might you share the good news about Jesus that others have shared with you?