John Goodridges Reflection -
It’s not a nice day as I write, dark, raining and windy, so any thoughts of going outside have been squashed. It has been a strange time for me living very much as a single person for five and a bit weeks, having to do all the domestics, which I quite enjoy apart from ironing. My catch phrase at the end of each garment is, “That will do!” I never knew how much washing can be produced by just two people. This will gradually change in the weeks to come as Pat is coming home this evening. Yet underlying all this is the fact that there are so many people, who are permanently on their own, some by choice, others by painful circumstances.
It’s quite strange that as I sit in my study and look at my bookshelves, I think to myself, all those books! Some of course are reference books but others are still to be read, and others have a book mark, which indicates I started but not finished, either because I became bored or it had no relevance at the time. Books give me great comfort especially, when I am on my own or in lockdown and what I find is the privilege of reading words by a great theologian, historian, novelist or philosopher, their words written or indeed spoken many years ago or maybe quite recently and hearing their thoughts, ideas or story in the comfort of my home. They are if you like speaking to me.
At the end of each day I read a few chapters of the Bible usually from the Message by Eugene Peterson, and this week I have read the Books of Samuel and the narrative of the Prophet Samuel and Kings Saul and David. Here we have murder, plots, battles, sex, jealousy, love and power, talk about Game of Thrones. The important thing in this huge epic is the realization of God being there in this story and His relationship with prophets, kings, and people. I am also reading a novel entitled “Paul” by Walter Wangerin, which is a brilliant and easy way of reaching into the mind and actions of St Paul.
I find amazing that as we read our Bibles we are reaching into the mind of God and hearing his message for humankind, yes some of the narratives are difficult to read and understand but with prayerful perseverance we can be enlightened. So, as we read scripture, we are confronted with the voices of those who have trusted God through faith, reaching back thousands of years. reflecting on a God who created the cosmos and you and me, who cares and loves each one of us, and what is truly remarkable, we can talk to him and He listens? Isn’t that utterly amazing and for me quite awesome? Also, we must remember that we are never alone even though it might seem so.
I have told this little story before but well worth repeating. One day a scruffy old gentleman appeared in church and sat at the back, just staring. The flower ladies were a little uncomfortable and asked him if he was OK. He responded that his wife had recently died, and he liked to come into the church just to be silent. The ladies informed the vicar who popped into see him in church and built up a good relationship with Jim. Jim told the Vicar that he would arrive at Church and simply say, “Hi! Jesus, Jim here.”
One day Jim never turned up and it came about he had been admitted to hospital and the vicar went to see him The nurse advised that he was in fact the first visitor Jim had had and they were not aware he had family. The Vicar went to see Jim and they chatted and then the Vicar said, “I understand you are not getting any visitors; do you have any family I can contact?” Jim replied “Oh I do receive a visitor every day and he sits in the same chair as you are sitting in.” “Oh, and who is that person?” Jim replied,” Jesus” “What does Jesus say to you Jim?” Jim replied, “Hello Jim, Jesus here!”
I think the institution of the church and theologians can make Jesus too remote and academic and I find little stories like the one above brings home to me the reality of the nature of Jesus. You may disagree with me on that one? I read an article in the Church Times this week and I quote a small section, which I think makes clear what I have said above. “When Jeff became pastor of a historic Baptist congregation in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he had visions of growing it into a mega church. That did not happen but the small and aged congregation – which actually shrank during his first year as parishioners died – taught him how to be a minister. After his first sermon, long and complicated and ending with some fine words from a well known theologian, a grandmother of the church took Jeff aside and gave him some advice that changed his life: “you have to put it where people can get it.”
Let me finish with some words by Thomas Merton from his “A book of hours”.
Our glory and our hope – We are the Body of Christ. Christ loves us and espouses us as His own flesh. Isn’t that enough for us? But do we really believe it. No!
Be content, be content. We are the Body of Christ. We have found Him; He has found us. We are in Him, He is in us. There is nothing further to look for, except for the deepening of this life we already possess. Be content. Thomas Merton