MANY YEARS AGO I read and delighted in Kosuke Koyama’s Three Mile an Hour God. It was, even then, in the earliest days of my ordained pastoral ministry, an almost indescribable relief to read a theological work that spoke of our human need to slow down.
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 it or not, at three miles an hour. It is the speed we walk and therefore the speed the love of God walks.
I recall Joe, the tour guide I encountered on my first pilgrimage to the Holy Land. “Welcome folks”, he grinned, “you’re about to begin running where Jesus walked.” And he wasn’t joking. And I thought I’d be all burned out by the end of the week. Pretty much was, actually.
Jesus walked – and still made time for hiving off up a mountain for a bit of quiet time, a slower pace. And whilst I recognise that a week long stay in the land “where Jesus walked” will require a bit of running, if one is to “see the sights”, I’m altogether less convinced that day to day life (Christian, or otherwise) at running pace is either called for or healthy.
If the recent General Synod exchange were to be proved right about the Church of England’s being no longer “fully extant” in 20 years time it’ll be, I’m pretty sure, because she burned herself out, fussing and panicking and “fund raising” and excluding and action planning. Slow down. Slow down. Slow down, I hear Jesus saying: “consider the lilies of the field, they neither reap nor spin.”
What a joy, then, to read in this week’s Church Times, i) Simon Parke’s Two Radical Messengers - thoughts on the relationship between Buddhism and Christianity: if we are able to reflect without hostility on these two spiritual heavyweights, then good things await us … And ii) Alan Hargrave recommending encountering God mindfully at a walking pace - together with his reflection on the following Prayer for the Week:
Dear God, we pray for another way of being,
another way of knowing.
Across the difficult terrain of our existence
we have attempted to build a highway
and in so doing have lost our footpath.
God, lead us to our footpath.
Lead us there where, in simplicity,
we may move at the speed of natural creatures
and feel the earth’s love beneath our feet.
Lead us there where, step-by-step,
we may feel the movement of creation in our hearts.
And lead us there where, side-by-side,
we may feel the embrace of the common soul.
Nothing can be loved at speed.
God, lead us to the slow path;
to the joyous insights of the pilgrim;
another way of knowing;
another way of being. Amen.
Michael Leunig (b. 1945)
Common Prayer Collection
Collins Dove, 1990