Like you, I distinctly heard John and Kristine say they would not be returning to Canberra Baptist. In Kristine’s words, “Pilgrims never go back!”
There’s been a few attempts to explain why they have come back (and gone back on their word!) but I have been thinking lately about the context of the original statement, the story Kristine told of how she and John had purchased some rather nice double walled stainless steel camping cups for the Camino de Santiago, and how, at the first pilgrim hostel, they accidentally left the cups behind. From memory they discovered their loss a few hours into the next day’s walk and John was all for returning, but Kristine said, “No. Pilgrims don’t retrace their steps. Pilgrims never go back!”
Thinking about that story, I’ve decided the exegetical key is the ‘cup’ and the words of Matthew 10:42, “Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones…—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.” In other words, sometimes a pilgrim might be called to retrace their steps, to be the bearer of ‘a cup of cold water’, to bring refreshment to others!
(And curiously, more than once John and Kristine’s return has coincided with a good downpour – a little excessively so at the church anniversary two years ago, but much welcomed this week!)
But putting the flippancy aside, I am incredibly grateful to John and Kristine for agreeing to return, and for John’s willingness to serve as a full-time interim minister over the next four months.
For me their arrival is definitely ‘a cup of cold water’ allowing me to take extended leave after what has been a very difficult period of ministry.
And for all of us it is an opportunity to renew – or make – their acquaintance, to benefit from John’s gentle ministry, dry sense of humour and willingness to help out everywhere, as well as Kristine’s insightful and delightful presence. I am certain this time will refresh us all.
And we need this refreshment. We, as a community of faith, need to stay hydrated as we follow Jesus and build community and share God’s love and justice in words and actions because – looking around – Canberra needs churches like Canberra Baptist. Canberra needs communities of faith that offer worship that goes deeper, community that goes wider – welcoming people from diverse backgrounds with diverse stories of faith – and a witness that embraces all of life and living. We are called to offer this ‘cup of cold water’ – our love and life and witness – to others.
Grace and peace, Belinda