As I travel around the country to spend time with ministers and churches I can’t help noticing the sheer quantity of major road-building projects that are under way just now. The redevelopment of the Raith Junction on the M74, the completion of the M8 between Baillieston and Newhouse, the dualling of the A9, the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route and the Forth Replacement Crossing are among the transformations that aim to make our journeys faster and more comfortable in the coming years.
As well as observing these new routes, I’ve also been exploring some of our heritage paths. These are historic tracks which over the centuries may have been drove roads, shieling paths, miners’ paths or in some cases pilgrimage routes. Not too far from where I live I have found old routes with fabulous names like Cadger’s Yett, Doups Drove Loan and the slightly ominous Coffin Road.
In our churches we are wisely building many new routes into our local communities to enable us to demonstrate the love of Jesus in practical, relevant and authentic ways. As we do so we find ourselves increasingly trusting God’s promise through Isaiah: Along unfamiliar paths I will guide them (Is 42.16).
Yet the message we are living out and inviting people to receive is actually about an old, well-trodden way of trusting God. With Jeremiah we make this simple challenge to ourselves and to others:
Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls. (Jer 6.16)
By God’s grace may all our churches creatively engineer new routes for mission and unashamedly embrace the ancient paths of faith and obedience. Perhaps this way we can be like the house owner Jesus describes who ‘brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old’ (Matt 13.52).