My very wise friend Will has many memorable sayings, one of which is, ‘I’ve heard a few people who can preach without notes, I’ve heard a lot more who can’t.’ So I will be very brief.
Although this has been a marvellous adventure, a wonderful journey, there have been times when it has been painful.
My right foot does not like getting shoved back into a boot in the morning. I’ve got a very tender heel, and as you’ve already been seeing, for the first hour or two of each day I would be limping quite a lot. And there were a couple of times, on two of the longer legs, the leg to Balmaha and going to Bishopbriggs, where towards the end, in the last hour, it would be like it was bruised inside, and it would be incredibly tender – and you know the little chippings you get on tarmac roads, even just treading on one of those would send the pain shooting up through my heel –that only happened the twice, thankfully.
And there have been times when it has been emotionally or spiritually painful. There were times when I was walking on my own, although very very ably supported, when it did just feel lonely, it felt like a long time – you imagine being just in my company for seven hours, you would feel spiritually tired: there were times when it felt lonely. And again, there were times, particularly in the first few bits, and perhaps when I was physically pained as well, when I thought, ‘Three hundred miles is a long way to go, and there is a long road ahead of me, and I don’t know if I can do this – this seems like a very long journey to be on.’
In those times when I was struggling, not too many of them I’m glad to say, I would touch the stone in my pocket, my little stone from St Columba’s Bay, where this whole pilgrimage started in so many different ways. I touched that stone and reminded myself that I am on a pilgrimage – I’m going from Iona, I’m going to Lindisfarne, this is a journey with a purpose, and a journey made in the love of God.
Of course, we are all pilgrims. The main body of a church is called the nave, which is derived from the Latin word for ship or boat... and that idea that the main body of a church is a ship is there to remind us that we are a people of movement, a people on a journey – that we are all pilgrims in this world, pilgrims in life.
Our journeys have moments where they are physically painful, and our journeys have moments where they are spiritually or emotionally painful to us.
I have no conclusion, but just something to offer you for a few moments quiet: just to think, what’s the stone in your pocket? What’s the thing that you can turn to that reminds you that you are on a journey from the love of God, to the love of God, and always within the love of God? When you are struggling on your pilgrimage, what is the stone in your pocket?