Rev Peter Baker
Good morning. For many of us international travel is so common that we fail to appreciate that the map of the world we know so well, owes much to Christopher Columbus, who on this day in 1492 received a royal commission from the King of Spain.
Whereas the Portuguese believed that the only route to the lucrative markets of China and the East Indies was via the traditional African and Indian subcontinents, Spain backed Columbus’ hunch that a way could be pioneered West across the Atlantic.
And yet there was much scepticism at the time. Few believed that a Western land mass existed much less a trade route in that direction. So confident were the Portuguese, that they erected a sign by the entrance to Lisbon harbour which read “There is no more beyond this”.
So Columbus sailed intending to reach Japan, he of course landed on the Bahamas Archipelago. Almost without realising it, the New World had been opened up and after three more voyages to establish permanent settlements, the Spanish Colonisation of the Americas had begun. It’s impossible to underestimate the impact on the history of the Western World because of European exploration and conquest which followed this discovery.
The motivation was a curious mixture of political power games, commercial self-interest and religious vision.
Recognising the new world which the explorer had found, when Columbus returned the third time from his travels, the notice at the entrance to Lisbon harbour was changed to read: “there is more beyond this“.
Christian faith teaches that Jesus Christ has opened up a new world for all who wonder if there is more beyond this life. Here’s a traveller who through His death and Resurrection has returned from that far country to pioneer a way for those who follow to land safely on the other side.
Father God, thank you for those who discover new paths and open up new areas of knowledge for us in science and culture, nature and technology. Thank you that you offer us hope in the face of life’s final journey. Amen.