JULIAN MEETING – 5th November 2018

I have had no sudden conversion to religion, no moment when the earth moved and the scales fell from my eyes.  God has never shown himself in such a way as to leave me with 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.  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 have to 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 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 attention.  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.  What Jesus is demanding of all he meets is a shift of focus: a new childlike yet mature innocence of perception that sees below the surface, a seeing that goes from without to within. “If your eye is sound”, he tells them, “your whole body will be full of light.”  Those first disciples, who being closest to him had the best chance of achieving this kind of enlightenment, failed to do so when they looked at him.  They saw further than the crowds or the religious authorities or Pilate.  But as John, the most visionary of the gospel writers, looks back from the far side of Easter, he reveals that only after that final week that culminated in the Cross and in the extraordinary days that followed did they really begin to see who this man might be and what he was trying to show them. In his words: “The Word became flesh….and we saw his glory….full of grace and truth.”  Yet what they all saw in the end when their eyes had been opened was that they had to see beyond the figure of Jesus to God himself.

The next Meeting is on 3rd December 2018 at 7.30pm in The Rectory           

Brian Fletcher