What does the word ‘pilgrimage’ mean to you?
- Does it bring back memories of studying Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales at school?
- Does it evoke thoughts of peace and solitude away from the hurly burly of everyday life?
- Does it mean ‘nothing’? Pilgrimages being something undertaken by others!
For some, the concept of ‘pilgrimage’ is about journeying with God, for others it is about a different type of holiday.
In 2018 and 2019 I undertook two very different pilgrimages … one to the Holy Land, and one to Santiago di Compostela.
The journey to the Holy Land involved many experiences that were meant to bring us a greater awareness of the physical presence of Our Lord.
The walk across northern Spain to Santiago di Compostela was different … that involved a less elaborate and prescriptive routine … a journey that relied far more on self-discipline and determination than a desire to see the next famous site or artefact.
Both of the pilgrimages I undertook in those exciting pre-pandemic days had highlights that will never leave me … one such was the day we sailed on the Sea of Galilee.
Despite the many ‘tourist’ moments that have become associated with pilgrimages to the Holy Land … sailing across the Sea of Galilee could hardly have changed from the time we read of in the Gospel narrative … the same hills in the distance … and, as we were reminded by our guides, the same water to travel upon!
On the day I crossed the Sea of Galilee the skies were clear and waters were calm; the sun shone brightly in the sky … but, then, within a few minutes, everything changed! There was not a full-blooded storm on that day, but there was significant turbulence.
Passengers on the boat (mostly ‘pilgrims’ rather than mere sight-seers) wondered what was going to happen next … there was certainly no-one asleep in the bows of the boat.
In our gospel reading we heard that Jesus slept through the storm – and that Jesus had mastery over the storm!
So … let us think about Jesus sleeping in the boat …
Psalm 127 opens with the words: Unless the Lord builds the house, those who built it labour in vain. Verse 2 offers the less well-remembered affirmation: he gives sleep to his beloved.
We have all known those moment when the cares of this world overwhelm us … those moments when we either do not sleep at all, or we sleep badly.
On the occasion of the storm in Luke’s gospel, Jesus slept because, no matter what was going on around him, he could rest secure in the knowledge of God’s love for him, and God’s purpose for his life.
Jesus’ house is built on solid rock.
- Storms come … and conflicts arise;
- Pressures build, but …
- God’s beloved is the still point of security and rest in the eye of the storm.
Oh that we could find such peace in the turbulence of our daily lives!
Luke also tells us that Jesus is Master of the Storm … The winds rage … the waters rise … the boat is tossed to and fro … and Jesus slept. In fear and desperation the disciples had to wake him up.
At the beginning of the book of Genesis we read that God’s first act in creation was to hover over the deep waters, bringing light and order to the dark and formless emptiness beneath … God brought order out of chaos.
Today we hear of Jesus, the Son of God … the One who was with God in the beginning and through whom all things were made, bringing the same order to the threatening dangers of the waters of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus rebukes the wind … Jesus settles the waves … Jesus brings calm!
But … as Jesus settles the storm, so he unsettles the disciples. They were amazed that he could sleep through the storm … and they were even more amazed that he could tame it.
Their amazement is greeted with a question: Where is your faith?
We can only presume that Jesus meant one of two things:
- Why didn’t you have the faith to stop the storm yourselves; why did you have to wake me? or
- You are with me; why did you think the storm would overcome us? Do you still not know who I am?
Through this storm we see the disciples’ understanding of Jesus growing … they already knew that he was a good teacher, and that he could heal the sick … now they witness something else … even the wind and the waves obey him!
Suddenly a light bulb turns on … Jesus is not just someone who does the work of God … Jesus is God!
So … do we have faith?
As we journey along the pilgrimage path we call ‘life’ … do we have faith that Jesus is the Son of God?
Do we have faith that with Jesus we can be safe … even when the storms are raging around us?
Do we have the strength of faith that could be a channel of God’s peace and good order … because that is what Jesus calls us to be?
Remember … faith does not mean certainty … rather, faith means trust.
Do we have the faith (the trust) to remember that Jesus is with us always?
Do we have the faith (the trust) to remember that, when the storms are at their strongest, we just have to wake up the Jesus who is always in our hearts?
Do we have the faith (the trust) to live with the certainty that no matter how dark the night, and how fierce the storm, the love and peace of God is for us all … for ever?