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Canterbury Tales: Favourite Bible Stories Retold by Archbishop Justin Welby

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Pilgrim’s Process: “How Long, Daddy?”

Pilgrim’s Process

“How Long, Daddy?”

By the Revd Dr Peter Sanlon

“How long, daddy?” It’s a common question on car journeys. When my children were younger I used to try to help them understand lengths of time by measuring it out for them in terms of how many episodes of their favourite kids’ TV show lasted. The cartoon had episodes of 8min each – so If we had a fifteen minute car journey to make, I would say its a “two episode’ trip.” The funny thing is that even today I still mentally calculate car journeys in terms of how many cartoons would fill it!

Pilgrims are on a journey – and we often wonder “How long, O Lord?” (Ps. 13:1) Even the saints who have been martyred utter the same prayer (Rev. 6:10).

Jesus told us in the Gospels that he would return to earth “soon.” (Mat. 24:34) Peter wrote, ‘The end of all things is near.’ (1 Pet. 4:7) Verses such as these led classical liberals to suggest that Jesus wrongly predicted the imminent end of the world. His disciples were caught up in an apocalyptic fervour which led them to delusional expectations.

But time can feel and be experienced in different ways. My children used to measure time by numbers of cartoon episodes; they now use wrist watches. It is a well established reality that as we age we experience time ‘faster’ and recollect distant events more immediately than recent ones. 

I have just started preaching through Revelation in our evening services. The book opens with these words:

“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.

“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” (Rev. 1:1-3)

The nearness of Jesus return – and the goal of our pilgrimage — is to be a sensed reality experienced more by means of the Spirit’s work in us, than the passing of minutes (or cartoon episodes). All who love Jesus know and feel the nearness of His return. Come Lord Jesus.

Rev. Dr. Peter Sanlon is rector of Emmanuel Anglican Church, Tunbridge Wells: www.emmanuelanglican.uk

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