16 June – Ben Cornell, Hope Church

The Tourist

The sun still beats down. Your feet are tired from the long, dusty road. The stranger at the gate directed you here to find water. Can it be right? Dazzling golden gates set in dizzyingly high walls. Just as you heard. The domed roof is like a mountain above the city. Soldiers guard the doors. People come and go in finery and rags. You mop your brow on your fraying sleeve. Raucous and laughing, a group comes up behind you, driving you on, up those steps, towards the open door. You are not even sure what this building is.

You pass under the arch, tipping your head back, almost stumbling as you take in the enormity of the space, the vanishing height of the dome, where gods and angels might play. You are handed a cup of water. A smiling face. She directs you into a line. You wait your turn. For what? you wonder. You round a pillar, and then you see it, and you realise where you are. This is the throne room of the king! The great king who rules the entire known world. Your pulse quickens. Your eyes flick nervously around as you puzzle at your apparent welcome. You shuffle along the line with everyone else, but your eyes are fixed on that radiant golden throne encrusted with sparkling gems, the magnificence of its exquisite platform. As beautiful and untouchable as the rising sun. You shuffle along. Now you see what awaits. There is a grand wooden seat where each person sits to have their feet washed. Presumably required in the presence of the throne.

It’s your turn. You sit, still dumbfounded by the spectacle.

“Welcome,” says the man washing your feet. You glance at his smiling face – and your heart leaps into your mouth…