It seems I’ve been a “temporary Australian” for longer than many people have been permanent Australians. I started riding motorbikes when I was a teenager. As soon as I worked out that they didn’t need to be fed every day and were no more likely to buck you off than a horse, I changed my allegiance from a rider of ponies to a motorbike rider. Mind you this was very much against the wishes of my parents. My father’s younger brother had been killed on a motorbike as a teenager so my choices brought up some pretty strong memories for him. Back in the day the bikes we rode were old road bikes that we stripped down to make into off-road bikes. There were no trail-bikes then and I can remember even making my first “knobby” tyre by cutting off chunks of tread from a normal road tyre to give the bike more grip in the wet paddocks.
By my twenties I was riding on the roads and have had bikes continuously for over 40 years. My favourite was a Suzuki GS 850 with a sidecar which I had for almost 20 years. I still have the sidecar, but the bike has gone. Throughout all this time people have reminded me of the dangers of riding a motorbike, but the sheer joy of riding and a youthful sense of indestructibility has allowed me to dismiss such concerns.
There is also a strong sense of spirituality to motorbike riding. For myself and all my long term riding mates riding a motorbike is so much more than getting from A to B. There is a sense of somehow being more alive when riding. Maybe it stems from the implicit danger. Maybe it comes from the immediacy of one’s contact with the elements, the constant rush of the air, gently buffeting body and face. The smell of the crops and blossom. The splendid isolation one feels encapsulated in leather and helmet. The dreamlike quality of a long ride. The feel of the sun on one’s back, the black leather capturing its warmth. The pleasure of dismounting, removing the helmet and enjoying a coffee. This is the joy of the non-material world, these things touch one’s spirit.
They were not riding motorcycles but I like to think that in taking his disciples out on the road and away from the comforts of home, Jesus was doing something of the same thing. The rhythms of a long walk are not dissimilar to a ride. They walked, they were hungry, they talked, they raided roadside trees looking for food. They depended on the hospitality of the road. Sometimes they slept under the stars and sometimes strangers gave them a corner to sleep in. They felt the sun on their backs. And they learnt that the best way to experience the world of the spirit, the non-material world, is to immerse oneself in the here and now.
The parables and teaching emerge directly from the people and things they encounter as they walk. Jesus draws insight from fig trees, sheep, crops of wheat and vines. Labourers in the fields and vineyards, shepherds, fishermen, a woman drawing water from the well all provide inspiration and instruction about God, life and our responsibilities. Somehow Jesus sees God at work in all the ordinary things of life; getting caught in a storm, forgetting to buy bread, bumping into outcasts, the homeless, and foreigners, talking about the dangers of being mugged and robbed and the kindness of strangers. As they walked the dusty roads they learned to understand the radical vision of God that Jesus presented. Unmerited grace and forgiveness for all. A God revealed in weakness. A God who suffers and aches with us. A God whose love extends to all without exception.
This is the gospel, and it’s good news.
Brian Spencer, Minister