‘Thomas Cook’ (1808- 92) was an extraordinary self-made man, recognised as a ‘Father of Travel’, who took pride in making travel more affordable. This down-to-earth Baptist preacher and entrepreneur had myriad occupations, businesses, successes, sorrows and setbacks. He once declared bankruptcy, and lost his daughter on the eve of her marriage and his wife not long after; but he was a passionate man of faith, determined to practice ‘faith, hope and love’ in life and living.
Thomas Cook, The Travel Company, has sadly failed to adapt to seismic shifts in the travel industry and we feel for people losing their jobs and others stranded abroad. Competition is fierce and people more prone to find their own ‘pic n mix’ travel arrangements rather than the more traditional ‘package holidays’. People’s love for adventure and travelling to new destinations and sunnier climes is undiminished. So too human hunger for love, purpose, intimacy, significance, hope, adventure eternal security. These thirsts and appetites are constant, the challenge for Christian churches today is to find fresh flexibility and fluidity to connect with, get alongside and share with neighbours, colleagues, strangers and friends the glorious Good News of Jesus Christ, the one who truly offers and provides ‘life in all its fulness’!
Along with many other Western Churches, The Church of Scotland is in a painful process of refinding its ‘Good News Shoes’ and footing. In the spiritual armour that St Paul describes in Ephesians 6 the Roman soldier’s leather footwear was an ingenious combination of supple sandal and sturdy rugby boot, studded to give grip, solid for endurance and flexible for quick movement. Thus, Roman armies quickly climbed mountains, waded water and traversed rough terrain to catch enemies off guard. Churches today that are flourishing and winning the battle against secularism (the lie that God, if he exists, is up there somewhere, with a long white beard unable to make a blind bit of difference down here) are fluid, flexible and know Jesus is very much in the thick of things.
It’s more about: loving, caring relationships than a membership card; going to where people are, and are at, than waiting for people to come to us; flexible spaces than fixed pews; unity trusting diversity than uniformity’s distrust and mistrust of those who are different; commandeering modern methods of communication than complaining about being left behind; finding synergy with other believers and growing humility and confidence in the Grace and Greatness of God than cowering in corners, etc.
As Hebrews 13:8 and the old chorus chimes, ‘Yesterday, Today, Forever Jesus is the same, all may change, but Jesus never, glory to His name.’ The sad demise of the Thomas Cook Group is yet another reminder for the Christian Church not to get stuck in ‘the way we’ve always done it’, rather to follow the versatile Jesus Christ wherever he leads. His authentic, unconditional and sacrificial love is exactly what all our generations need now and forever.
Unlike Thomas Cook, Jesus really can offer us ‘The Trip of a lifetime!’ The aid to memory for FAITH describes it well,