The Pastoral Letter for October from the Rector
My Dear friends,
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (Jn 14:6
“Amazing grace.” T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far...and Grace will lead us home.God is consistent; God’s promise of mercy is for ever and for everyone; God never leaves himself without witnesses and messengers, people always charged with the same fundamental message of the “tender mercy of our God” giving “knowledge of salvation” and “the remission of our sins”. This is “to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace” so that “delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life.”
This consistent God is still calling, still wanting people to know the good news of his love for them, and he wants us, you and me to be cheerful and fearless witnesses in our own day, pointing, as did all the prophets of old, to Jesus who not only showed the way but himself was and still remains 'the Way'.Jesus’ description of himself as “the Way” recalls many Old Testament passages referring to the need to walk in God’s way, or God’s ways. A journey to be travelled, a road to be trodden, a way to be walked, is a pretty natural image for a human life. It turns up in most religions, and doesn’t even need a religious context.
But on its own the image doesn’t take us very far. Roads lead in all directions. Many of you will remember Alice in Wonderland’s encounter with the Cheshire Cat:
“Cheshire Puss”, Alice began, rather timidly,...“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where — ” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“ — so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
Alice felt that this could not be denied, so she tried another question. “What sort of people live about here?”
“In that direction,” the Cat said, waving its right paw round, “lives a Hatter: and in that direction,” waving the other paw, “lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad.”
Any use of “way” imagery for human life must imply some choices, and it’s against that background that we should approach both the frequent use in the Acts of the Apostles of the term “the Way” to describe the followers of Jesus and, of course, Jesus description of himself.
Jesus’ description of himself as the Way invites the question, the way to what? In context in St John’s gospel the answer is of course that it is not a “what” but a “whom” to which the way leads, and the Who is the Father, Jesus’ Father and ours.
On the eve of Jesus crucifixion, Jesus had been talking about where he was going and that he would prepare a place for them. It was when Thomas said, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” that Jesus answered “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” and immediately went on to say “no one comes to the Father, but by me.”
So there we know, in terms of Alice’s dilemma, both the choice of road to be taken, and where it is leading.
It may be rather fanciful, but it seems to me that we are not so much faced like Alice with a simple fork in the road, but a crossroads. Yes, the CROSSroads is a deliberate pun. The trunk of the tree is the road we are on, there is a choice of paths to right and left, with all sorts of interesting possibilities, these are the arms of the cross. There is also a path lying straight ahead towards the head of the cross and beyond it to the skies. That of course is the only road on which to stay.
Jesus’ words imply a further question however: what it might mean for Jesus to be the Way. It’s fairly easy to see how a code of behaviour or a set of cultural or religious practices might be a way of life, but how can a person be a way? Next month I want to look at the question: ‘In what way is Jesus the way?’
Your friend and priest