One of the ideas that has been mulling around in my mind for the last few weeks is the notion of travelling, or journeying; more specifically the idea that as Christians we perhaps ought to learn the art of travelling well.
As a nation I suspect we are not good at travelling well. We get irritated when we have to queue, or when the train is delayed, and when we are forced to sit in a traffic jam. We have probably all seen the worse excesses of road rage and it seems at least possible that some of us – not me of course – might have said the odd rude word when we are on the receiving end of someone else’s bad driving. And, what about car parks, has anyone here ever been just a little bit irritated by poor car park etiquette? Without wanting to excuse others poor driving, car park etiquette or the state of the railways I think we must also own up the fact that we also seem to be a nation that is perpetually in a hurry. We are simply not very good at travelling.
When I commuted into London each day on the train one of the things that I found most amazing, and it is something that I was personally guilty of, was the profound sense of irritation or disease people expressed when the rituals of travel were disrupted. The primary example of this is when people sat in the ‘wrong seat’ in the carriage. Believe it or not I have even seen people in churches develop a sense of anxiety and irritation when someone else sits in what they regard as their seat!
The feast of the epiphany challenges us to do two things: to re-learn the art of travelling well, and to do so alongside others; others who we wouldn’t necessarily chose to travel or share a compartment with. Epiphany asks us to consider the possibility that all of us are fellow and equal travellers. In Jesus’ economy first, business and standard compartments don’t exist. We travel with whoever it is we find ourselves alongside. In St. Paul’s language that is the ‘commission of God’s grace.’
Learning to travel or journey well requires spiritual ‘wisdom.’ Wisdom is the art of seeing as God would have us see, hearing as God would have us hear, feeling as God would have us feel, and worshipping as God would have us worship. The magi epitomise the art of travelling well. They follow the star, and we too need to look out for where God is already at work. This year why not ask God to give you eyes to see? They listen to, and then chose to ignore, Herod and in doing so take a massive risk. In and through Herod’s words of insincerity they hear they perceive the abuse of power. ‘Again why not ask God this year to give you ears to hear? On finding Jesus the Magi were ‘overwhelmed with joy,’ we too need to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed with joy. Our response to Jesus should be a felt response. And finally the Magi give us a wonderful picture of what true worship looks like. Worship is best done from our knees in a spirit of true humility and where we offer back to God of our very best.
So my challenge, or invitation, to you, this year is to re-learn the art of travelling well. Travelling well requires developing a real sense of spiritual wisdom where wisdom is defined as seeing as God would have us see, hearing as God would have us hear, feeling as God would have us feel and worshipping as God would have us worship; together and alongside whoever God calls us to travel with.
May you travel well this year, Amen.