Goodbye seems so very final. Perhaps then we should say Au Revoir, until we meet again, but we are not in France we are in Wales. The Welsh Hwyl Fawr is more akin to the English Goodbye for both are offered as travellers depart. However the origin of Goodbye might save it from being quite so final as it is a modern version of the C14th God be with you. God Speed could be an alternative word at departure. Hwyl Fawr literally translates as ‘Large Sails’. Perhaps this is testament to the fact that in Britain you are never far from coastline and travelling in the early years when Welsh was a more dominant language over the whole country if you went off on a journey, more than likely it would take you by sea up and down the coast as it was far quicker than by land. It would have of course been by sailing boat. Hwyl Fawr, to wish someone full sails for their journey. Certainly that is why Iona was considered not so far off in the centuries of Columba, the Hebrides were in the middle of the C6th version of the M74 / A82! So you wished folk Full Sails, i.e. a fare wind to carry them on their journey. Travelling by sea was also dangerous, so with large sails and a fare wind, the journey was shorter. In the midst of a storm if you are unlucky enough to be out at sea you are unlikely to be wanting any sailcloth being shown an ounce of wind lest it blow the whole thing over. Unless of course you have Jesus in the boat on whom you can call up from having a nap to settle the waves down. It’s interesting that it is often at times of crisis people turn to God, or say a prayer at the last moment – just in case. Forgetting of course, that Jesus was in the boat from the beginning! So when we pray for patience in times of frustration, are we instantly given patience or perhaps opportunities to learn to be patient. If we pray for courage in times of trouble, does God give courage or the opportunity to be courageous?
Such questions are raised in Evan Almighty. Evan Baxter is a newly elected member of the US Congress – his campaign statement: “We are going to change the world.” A big claim. However things don’t go quite to plan, well not to Evan’s plans. God has a task for him. If you want to change the world, you have to begin by building an ARK. No, quite literally. And so Evan builds God’s ark. His fellow congressmen desert him. For a time, his family desert him too, but he keeps building without knowing exactly what it is for, except that there is going to be a flood – naturally! And there is a flood, a badly built dam breaks destroying what was once a green valley but is now covered with houses. Evan’s ARK saves the people and convinces the congress to take more care in the future.
So from today I’m moving on to a new place and to new challenges, moving without knowing exactly the task that is ahead. I rather hope it will not be boat building. When journeying out into the unknown – even if it might be into what we think is a coming storm, remember that Jesus is already in the boat, there no need to panic like the disciples for God journeys ahead of us and prepares the way. When times become tough remember to build an ARK of our own. You see we can all change the world, it doesn’t have to be in a glamorous campaign for political office, just one small act of random kindness at a time. ARK, Act of Random Kindness. Wherever your journeys take you from this place I wish you Hwyl Fawr, and may God be with you.