2 Peter 1.16-21
When my family first arrived in Australia in 1965, we were placed into a rather grotty fish processing plant which had been recently turned into a migrant hostel. It reeked of fish. Rotting fish. We took any and every opportunity to get away from there, and not knowing what else to do, we went into Brisbane City quite a few times. We’d been advised that you couldn’t get lost in the city—all you had to do, wherever you were, was to look for the City Hall clocktower and take your bearings from it. And you know, it worked! We used it as a landmark to help us in a strange place.
Of course, today that’s impossible, with all the high-rise buildings that have gone up since. Today, City Hall is dwarfed by its neighbours. The clocktower no longer serves as a landmark.
If you’re in a strange place, or on a hike through the bush, landmarks are essential. They tell you where you are. A landmark may be a mountain, a waterfall, a building or a fork in the road. Without those landmarks, we’d be lost.
The spiritual writer Margaret Silf talks about landmarks on the spiritual journey. When we’re on the spiritual journey, we need landmarks just as much as when we’re on a walk through the bush. Perhaps even more.
Let me tell you about a landmark on my spiritual journey. It was 3 April, 1983. I can date it exactly, because it was Easter Sunday.
I’d been studying hard for my post-graduate qualifications as a psychiatrist. I’d also been steadily losing my faith; it seemed to me to be less and less real.
Most of my friends had gone away for Easter, but I had stayed home to study. I’d decided to go to church on Easter morning, more out of a sense of duty than anything. So I walked down the road to a nearby church, St Peter’s Anglican Church.
I love the Anglican liturgy, I really do—when it’s done well. However, it can be done very badly indeed.
On this occasion, it was dire. I wasn’t a regular attender of this church by any means, and I’d heard that the priest wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but I wasn’t prepared for how bad it was.
As the service went on, I wished I were somewhere else. But I was too polite to walk out.