How fast does God move?
Q How fast does God move? A 3 mph. It’s a lovely morning (but rain is on the way). Outside my window the sun is catching the vibrant colours of the autumn leaves. So as soon as I finish this blog, Jacqui and I will be going for a walk. In fact, one of the features of this lock-down has been our daily walk, usually from our home, exploring all the interesting corners of Aughton and beyond. And not just us, many other people are now walking – which has to be one of the few upsides of this pandemic. We are made to move. God has not created us to sit for hours at a time. In fact, my Garmin watch irritatingly keeps telling me to move. As neurologist Oliver Sacks observes: “Much more of the brain is devoted to movement than to language. Language is only a little thing sitting on top of this huge ocean of movement.” However, some of us can even move and talk at the same time. That’s why walking is good for relationships. It allows conversation but at the same time easily tolerates periods of silence and reflection. You can think. Moreover we bump into other people while maintaining, of course, our social distance. We say “Hello” to people we do not know while striking up short conversations, even on the other pavement. It’s a way of keeping in touch, of encouraging each other. “Walking,” comments journalist Melissa Balmain, “is the best thing for human bonding since the smile.” Of course, Jesus lived in a walking culture. And he certainly covered the ground, walking from town to town. One moment he is in the far north at Caesarea Philippi and next in Jerusalem, some 70 miles to the south. And walking, he noticed people. Like Simon and his brother Andrew, fishermen cleaning their nets on the shoreline of Lake Galilee or Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. In fact, the first thing that Matthew did in response to Jesus’ call was to walk! You see people when you walk. By walking Jesus made himself accessible – although there were times when you had a climb a tree to catch a glimpse of him. When walking along the border between Samaria and Galilee en route to Jerusalem, he is seen by a group of lepers who shout out to him for help. People see you when you walk. But above all, Jesus was able to talk to people as he walked. And as in all conversations it would be a mixture of the profound and the everyday. No doubt he would point things out to his fellow walkers. Other times he would give them time to process their thinking. However, one of the most powerful conversations Jesus had was over a seven mile walk with Cleopas and his unnamed friend. In fact, Luke selects this walk to Emmaus as the centrepiece for his narrative of the resurrection victory of Jesus. “Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.” (Luke 24:13-15) It was nearly 20 years ago when I took a three month sabbatical with the first eight weeks in the then library at Liverpool Cathedral. It was there, hidden in the stacks, that I came across the work of the Japanese theologian Kosuke Koyama. One of his main passions was to develop a theology accessible to the peasantry of the developing nations of Asia. “I must preach,” he wrote, to the peasant farmers in the simplest sentence structure. They remind me to discard all the abstract ideas and to use exclusively objects that are immediately tangible.” It was this commitment for simplicity and directness that led him in 1979 to write his biblical reflections on the “Three mile an hour God.” Why three mile an hour? That’s walking speed, at least in his part of the world. So he writes: “Love has its speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed. It goes on in the depth of our life, whether we notice or not, at three miles an hour. It is the speed we walk and therefore the speed the love of God walks.” The good news is that we may be in the slow walkers group but Jesus walks at our speed, sensitive to our slowness. He will even pause with us, as with Cleopas and friend who stopped in their tracks to shared their disappointment: “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (Luke 24:18). These two disillusioned disciples had much to process as Jesus, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27). No wonder their hearts burned within them. Sometimes it just takes time for us to cotton on to some teaching from scripture, seeing familiar Biblical texts in an altogether new light. But Jesus does not walk ahead, leaving us to find our own way. He stays with us, even if we find walking uphill difficult. It is not that we walk with Jesus. It is that he walks with us. #resurrection #Jesuswalks