JULIAN MEETING Monday August 14th 2017
My religious pilgrimage through life has had no sudden conversion, no moment when the earth moved and the scales fell from my eyes. When the Damascus Road brigade make their bids for such blinding experiences, holding no such dazzling trumps in my hand, I have to pass. God has never shown himself in such a knockdown kind of way as to leave no room for doubt; and, as a naturally somewhat guarded soul, what attracts me is this very reticence: he invites and he waits, he never commands. As Love would, of course, leaving room for faith rather than certainty and affirming my freedom. The ways to God are as varied as human beings (and sometimes as crazily idiosyncratic), and when I hear of clear and decisive conversion experiences of others in accepting Jesus as their personal friend and saviour, I sometimes feel judged and dismissed because I could not with integrity use that sort of language.
I know that I would not be what I am if I did not believe with all my heart that God is my Creator and that he is Christlike: that is to say, that his name and nature are Love. My faith begins and ends with God revealing himself in human terms and all that the Incarnation implies. But although it begins with, and indeed centres on, Jesus of Nazareth, it does not end with him. I am drawn to him as I am drawn to no other man who has ever lived, but he is no longer just a man. This belief in the Christlike God, exploring, questioning, sometimes doubting it, and redefining, seeing new aspects, new meanings, hopefully with a deepening insight and perception, is the business of a lifetime. In a sense it has never not been part of me, though my understanding has changed so much: less childish certainly, but still not as childlike as it should be in terms of trust and love.
I guess my journey is not unusual and is echoed by that of those who first saw him. For once again it is a question of learning how to see. If you could only use one verb to describe the very heart of what Jesus is and says and does it would be that verb. He asks the first two men whose curiosity is aroused by him to “come and see” where he is staying and they spend the day there. They in turn, drawn to follow this man, invite others to “come and see”; and the first link in the chain of disciples is forged. He claims to have come “to open the eyes of the blind”; to enable people to see. They notice how he sees God’s love for his creation, each flower, each sparrow; how he pictures God at the heart of such ordinary scenes as a farmer sowing his land or children playing in the marketplace. He draws their attention to the mystery, the “beyond” in their midst, yet keeps them firmly rooted in their everyday lives. They listen as he tells stories which allow people to see the reality of God and his fatherly love in terms of a shepherd searching for a straying lamb, a father longing for his son’s return home, a woman overjoyed at finding her lost pension. They watch as he challenges the priorities of the lawyers and religious leaders who claim to see: he accuses them of blindness, of lacking any true understanding or vision.
They watch in particular his dealings with individuals: they notice how he sees into the heart, not superficially; each is the focus of his loving attention. He meets the rich young man and “looks steadily at him and loves him”. He meets a Samaritan woman at a well and, seeing her need, draws her attention to the God who is to be found within her. One of the most significant stories narrated by the first writers and observers of Christ’s mission is about two men, both born blind, both of whom he healed. When the first is questioned by the authorities as to how this healing was achieved, he replies with moving simplicity: “I do not know….All I know is this: I was blind and now I see.” The second man is taken by Christ, who puts spittle on his eyes, lays his hand on him and asks “Can you see anything?” “I see people,” he replies, “they look like trees, but they are walking about.” Jesus turns and asks his followers; “Do you not yet understand? You have eyes; can you not see?” Jesus is demanding that his disciples shift their focus and see what lies beneath the surface, a seeing that goes from without to within. It was only after his resurrection that they understood more fully what they had seen and began to truly understand the Redemption. Next Meeting on September 4th at the Rectory
For further information contact Brian Fletcher on 01948 861152.