Daily Devotion 21 June 2021
Hebrews 12:1-2a ‘A Race for Pilgrims’
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
‘To Be a Pilgrim’
John Bunyan (1628-1688)
Who would true valour see, let him come hither;
one here will constant be, come wind, come weather;
there’s no discouragement shall make him once relent
his first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.
Whoso beset him round with dismal stories
do but themselves confound; his strength the more is.
No lion can him fright; he’ll with a giant fight;
but he will have a right to be a pilgrim.
Hobgoblin nor foul fiend can daunt his spirit;
he knows he at the end shall life inherit.
Then fancies flyaway, he’ll fear not what men say;
he’ll labour night and day to be a pilgrim.
Bunyan’s hymn, taken from his The Pilgrim’s Progress’ isn’t my favourite, but it was one I learnt in school rather than in church, and there were two versions printed in our school hymnals alongside each other. Needless to say, whichever one our head-master asked us to sing, we at the back of the assembly hall would sing the other version! And we loved to sing – in voices which had just broken – ‘Hobgoblin or foul friend’!
Apparently in legend, Welsh hobgoblins (or ‘bwbachod’), were good-natured though mischievous, and were said to perform household chores in return for bowls of cream, but had a dislike of clergymen and teetotallers, upon whom they played relentless pranks!
Some years ago I walked most of the Pilgrim’s Way – which is 141 miles in total – from Winchester to Canterbury with a good friend to raise money for a church project in The Gambia. On an early part of the walk we came across upon a little avenue of immensely old yew trees. They had clearly been planted deliberately since they were in a line and stationed at regular intervals – probably to act as a guide for pilgrims following the way to Canterbury. As we walked past these gnarled trunks, centuries old, I couldn’t help thinking that the pilgrims who had walked along that self-same path that we followed, perhaps 1000 years ago – had the same belief & trust in the same Lord who had lived 1000 years before them.
It was, quite simply, humbling to think that one was part of such a tradition, part of what the writer to the Hebrews refers to as ‘a bright succession’, all following in the footsteps of the same Lord Jesus Christ – even though we were thousands of years apart. The Christian journey through life and faith has often been compared to a pilgrimage. But notice that the words of Bunyan’s hymn are not spoken by Valiant, who is telling the author of the trials of his life – but by Bunyan. There is always a place for testimony, but the most valuable witness is when the love and faithfulness of those around us are allowed to speak for themselves.
Loving God, we thank you for the lives and example of our fellow Christians, who are on the same journey that we make. Help us so to encourage each other, that each one of us may make a ‘pilgrimage of grace’ for Christ’s sake. Amen.
Reflection © 2021 Barrie Tabraham.
Image freely available online.
Hymn words no longer in copyright.
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