Mark – where the action is

Repentance – now there’s a word worth exploring!

As a child, I got the distinct impression at Sunday School that repentance was all about being sorry. If I was only sorry enough for all the naughty things I did then maybe I wouldn’t go to hell… it was that kind of Sunday School… plenty of hell-fire and the threat of damnation kept me very “good” and compliant, specially as my mum used to say to me, when I’d been found out in some minor misdemeanour at home and was grovelling, “being sorry’s no good!”  All of which might be why, in my more mature years (well OK then, now I’m old!) I set so much store by the overwhelming generosity of God’s grace, love and forgivenss, which can never be earned and is a free gift for us all at every moment.

Repentance is in fact nothing to do with feeling very sorry and remorseful, although such feelign can bring us to the point of willingness to repent. The Greek word translated as repentance in this passage is μετάνοια (metanoia), implyinga change of heart and mind. As Wikipedia says, “The repentance (metanoia) called for throughout the Bible is a summons to a personal, absolute and ultimate unconditional surrender to God as Sovereign. ….. It is a call to conversion from self-love, self-trust, and self-assertion to obedient trust and self-commitment to God.”

Now that definition makes perfect sense. It also explains why Jesus, of all people, came to John to be baptised. For John was offering a baptism of repentance and in submitting to baptism Jesus was demonstrating both His complete identification with us in our sinfulness and His complete turning towards God in submission to God’s will.

The result of this complete submission was that He heard the voice of God declaring “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased”. This was the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and was followed immediately, as you may recall, by the Spirit driving Jesus out into the wilderness, where He began to understand the full impact of the commitment He had made and what it would mean to live His life God’s way and to bring in the Kingdom God’s way and, indeed, the very nature of the Kingdom of God which is so very different from any earthly kingdom.

I don’t know whether any of you are familiar with the writings of Terry Pratchett. I’m not addicted to them – honest – it’s just that I happen to have all of his books on my bookshelf and reread them regularly. For those of you who don’t know already, the majority of his books are set on the Discworld – a flat world carried on the back of four elephants which are standing on Great A’Tuin, an enormous turtle swimming through space. (Did I mention he’s a fantasy writer?). This is a world which runs on magic rather than following scientific principles. One of the characters is Rhincewind, a failed wizard. Suffice to say that Rhincewind is a survivor – born lucky, you might say – whose main goal in life is to stay alive. He achieves this by knowing when to run from trouble, and more than once explains to bewildered companions who ask “where are we going?” ” ‘To’ doesn’t matter. All that matters is ‘from’ – ‘to’ will take care of itself!”

However, in the case of repentance, I venture to suggest that “from” doesn’t matter – “to” is the most important thing. we repent to God’ will rather than our own. And as we turn to God and away from our self-will then we too enter into His Kingdom.

Each act of repentance – of μετάνοια (metanoia) – will bring us to a new beginning in our lives. Our past rebellion ended and a new submission begun.

God give us the grace to repent continually – to turn continually towards Him and the light of His love. And may our repentance – our turning to – cause us to shine ourselves with His light and equip us to share His love with all.

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Matthew: what’s in a name?

There’s a lot of death around at the moment.

Typhoon in the Philippines, a crashed helicopter in Glasgow, two young teenage girls mown down and killed by a car driven by an aquaintance, a 5-year-old boy diagnosed just 2 months ago with an agressive cancer who died this week, a pupil at school whose dad is dying of a brain tumour, two more pupils taken out of school yesterday to say their last “goodbye” to their great-grandmother to name but a few.

There’s a lot of death around at the moment.

Death is a taboo subject in our society and yet, as this second geneaology (Matthew 1:1-17) coming hard on the heels of the one in Luke’s Gospel reminds us, there is one thing which is certain in this life – we will all die, as will those who gave us life and those to whom we have given life.  Genealogies are in a way a list of endings and beginnings.

Life is not linear. We tend to think it is, living out as we do a succession of moments in time. We think of it as a journey from A to B – or should that be from B to D, from Birth to Death… and in one sense, maybe our own individual time-lines are just that – lines. However, in another way life is circular. We also speak of life-cycles and within our individual lives there are times and seasons which recur.

I’m a teacher. My working life is governed by terms – Autumn, Spring, Summer – and by a timetable which recurs on a regular pattern. I’m also a gardener. That part of my life is governed by seasons – Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn. My husband is a sailor. That part of his life is governed by the phases of the moon and the tides – Spring and Neap tides come round regularly twice a month.  And in these genealogies we see that the larger life of our societies are governed by the cycle of birth and death – an endless succession of beginnings and endings.

These genealogies put the life of Jesus into context. He was a real man, born in a real place and at a real time. He was part of that unending cycle of births and deaths. And that is awesome – God comes to us and takes upon Himself the same limitations as we live with day in and day out. And by taking that specific identity upon HImself – a particular man in a particular place and from a particular line of ancestors – and transcending it and becoming the Man for all peoples, not just those who shared His cultural and religious context, He shows us that we too can transcend our backgrounds and find a larger sense and meaning for our lives than would otherwise be possible.

And His willingness to enter fully into our humanity gives us a starting point when walking alongside the relatives of victims of typhoons, crashes, hit-and-run deaths, childhood and other cancers… He is in all of the beginnings and endings and new beginnings, helping us to find meaning and hope in the face of the agonising scream of despair “why? why me? why my child/parent/friend? why?????”

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Luke: flashback

Family trees are fascinating and origins give a sense of rootedness.

A pupil of mine can trace his antecedents all the way back to a mediaeval king (I forget which one). I, on the other hand, can trace my ancestry on my mother’s side all the way back to a 16th centruy Cornish tin-miner who left Cornwall for London due to the lack of work in Cornwall. And apparently the spelling of her (maiden) surname is so rare that anyone with that surname who spells it that way is related to anyone else with the same name.

And I love the genealogy with which Luke begins. It reminds us that Jesus was a real man, with real ancestors. Luke reels them off at lightning speed, ending with the triumphant “son of Adam, son of God”. Because unlike my pupil, whose family tree is known only as far back as the Middle Ages, and myself, whose family tree is known only as far back as the 16th centruy, Jesus’ family tree is known as far back as God Himself. And right at the outset of his Gospel, Luke establishes that Jesus is God’s son.

As I allowed that short phrase “son of Adam, son of God” to resonate with me yesterday (sorry, still running a bit behind on this book club!) the awareness gradually grew in me that as we can all in theory trace our family tree back to Adam, the first man given life by God, the archetype for humanity, surely by implication we also are therefore sons and daughters of God.

Yes, we also – all of us, all men and women and children who have ever drawn breath, are sons and daughters of God. In the Eternal Now that has always been so and will for ever be so.

May this Advent season be for us all a journey into a deeper knowledge of our relationship with God in Christ, and may He open our eyes and hearts to see and know that everyone we meet, whether they know it or not, is also a son or daughter of God.

God give us grace to live as your sons and daughters, and to treat all who cross our paths as our brothers and sisters. Amen.

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Luke: let me tell you a story Advent Book club day 3

OK, OK… I know this is the beginning of Day 4 and I’m posting about the readings for Day 3…

Maybe if I tell you that Day 3, for me, began with a 5am alarm, continued with “in the car before 6.30 to drive to school” and ended with “collapse into bed utterly exhausted at 10.45pm after wall-to-wall work” you’ll bear with me! And let me tell you, that partiuclar ending was wonderfully welcome.

Yesterday all I managed was to read the scripture passages suggested – the opening verses of Luke’s gospel – before setting out on my long commute. Those words stayed with me, however, throughout the day and the question which grew and grew in my mind was “why?”.

“Why did Luke, having read and considered other accounts of the significance of the life and death of that carpenter and wandering rabbi from Nazareth, decide that he too would write his own version? He says that all the others undertook, as he says he also intends, “to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.”

Is he implying that despite their undertaking, their accounts were after all not orderly? or not accurate? or incomplete? or was it that he thought he knew information to which they hadn’t had access and which would augment the narrative? or was it simply that he wanted his voice to be heard with all the others?

Because our response to a situation is always, and inevitably, very personal. Eye-witnesses to an incident never give identical accounts of the events. As a teacher I am deeply, deeply suspicious if, when attempting to get to the bottom of an incident, I receive identical statements from each pupil involved… conflicting reports are a far better indicator that each is (probably) telling the truth as they saw/experienced/understand it.

However, I kept on returning yesterday to the idea that maybe Luke simply wanted his own voice to be heard. Because isn’t that what we all want? Isn’t that a large part of what we’re about in this book club? and in all interactions we have with others? We want our own voice to be heard.

And as for Luke, so for us – if we also take the time and trouble to listen carefully to the voices of others, the whole will be so much greater than the sum of the parts. Because I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be without any of the four Gospels, with their very different accounts and emphases. Just as I wouldn’t want to be without any of the very varied expressions of Christianity that abound in our world, from Evangelical Free Church to high Catholic (whether Roman or Anglican), from Methodist to Coptic, from URC to Orthodox and all stations in between. And more than that – I also wouldn’t want to be without any of the very varied understanidng and expressions of the Presence of God in our lives that abound in our world, from Muslim to Sikh, from Jewish to Buddhist, and yes – from atheist to Christian to name but a few.

Here ends my (very radical, it turns out) thought for – er – for yesterday…

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John: Let’s start at the very beginning

In the beginning when God createdthe heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
Genesis 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
John 1:1-5

The title given by Maggi Dawn to today’s readings and thoughts reminds me, as I’m sure it is intended to, of the song Do Re Mi from the Sound of Music.

Beginnings matter – and as Maggi points out, where we begin a story very much affects the ensuing path of that story.

I’ve always been a great lover of John’s gospel as it speaks to me at a level deeper than mind and words and logic. And the symbol of a light shining in the darkness is such a powerful one…


In our 21st century Western world we very rarely experience true darkness. Even on a moonless night when the sky is overcast there is still light, reflected off the underside of the clouds, from street lights, house lights, vehicle lights… and a dark room is rarely pitch-dark.
Even so – lack of light goes hand-in-hand with chaos. Yesterday evening I walked down the garden to pick a chilli pepper from the plant in my greenhouse. I didn’t take a torch, thinking I could find my way. Without realising I strayed onto the edge of the flowerbed and tripped over a plant in its pot which is awaiting planting. Now that will have created a tiny amount of chaos which I’ll need to sort out this morning. Even a single candle would have made a difference.
Equally, darkness can hide, cover up chaos. When I go into my (home) office first thing in the morning, which for me, as a natural “lark”, is often around 5am, it’s pretty dark and I can imagine that the top of my desk is clear, everything neatly filed away, no jumble of papers. Then I sit down and strike a match to light the candle set out in readiness the evening before. The match blazes out with light enough to illumine the candle for me. Then I light the candle, praying “Lord Jesus, Light of the world, shine Your light into my darkness”. And even that single candle produces enough light for me to see the shadowy outline of the jumbled piles of papers on my desk… the light shows us the truth of our lives, the chaos which so often underlies the facade we present to one another and even, dare I say, to ourselves.

So for John to start his gospel – his proclamation of Good News – with the advent of Light, paralleling the Creation story which also starts with the separation of light from darkness, thus beginning the bringing of order to chaos, is for him to speak to our deepest need in our deepest darkness. For surely a light to lighten our darkness is indeed our deepest need, both individually and corportately.

There is much darkness in this world. Just 3 days ago, here in Gosport, the funeral took place of Jasmine Allsop, one of the two teenagers mown down in the early hours of 3rd November just a milke up the road from my house. The funeral of Olivia Lewry, the other teenager killed, will take place tomorrow morning. And this morning we hear that the death toll from the Glasgo helicopter crash is still rising. And that’s before we consider the myriad private darknesses which haunt all of us, or look wider to the national and international darknesses which continue to disrupt and damage lives.


And yet… and yet… in this season of Advent, we wait for the coming of the Light of the World – that Light which shines in the darkness and which the darkness cannot overcome. Ultimately this is something to be apprehended rather than comprehended, experienced rather than understood. And paradoxically that Light shone brightest from the cross – for that Light didn’t, doesn’t just shine from the outside – it shines within our darkness, entering into it fully, living our agony and experiencing with us our sense of alienation, of hopelessness.

And then… and then… Light triumphs over darkness as the empty tomb on Easter day declares that the darkness shall not win.


So whatever darkness we are currently experiencing, and whatever darkness awaits us in the hours, days and weeks to come, let us pray together “Light of the World, shine Your light in our darkness and as you illuminate us, grant us to so shine with Your light that our very presence shines your Light upon all whom we meet”.

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Early or late? #AdventBookClub

Along with others, I’m dipping into Maggi Dawn’s book Beginnings and Endings during the season of Advent 2013.

This past year has contained rather more endings and beginnings than I would have chosen. Many of the endings have been gut-wrenchingly painful. The same has been true of the beginnings also…

I’m someone who prefers stability, same-old-same-old, routine, the familiar… so a house-move to a completely unkown area (I’d visited it precisely four times, including the house-viewing, before we moved) after 29 years in our previous community, 27 in the same house, has been, to put it mildly, traumatic. And in the wake of that enormous ending-and-beginning has come a stream of other endings-and-beginnings. I knew the house move and associated changes would be a challenge – I didn’t aniticipate the effect it would have in every area of my life, emotional, psychological and spiritual as well as physical.

And interestingly, for once in my life, this very painful journey has precisely mirrored the Church Calendar.

Now I know this is very rarely the case – I’ve gone through enough Christmasses grieving for a recently-died loved one, and one year sitting at the side of my father’s bed as he struggled for breath (he actually died on New Year’s Day), to understand from the inside the sense of dislocation that comes as fireworks are proclaiming loudly the New Year whilst someone who has always been there for you is slipping away, carving a black hole in your heart which it seems at that moment that nothing can ever fill, or the gut-wrenching pain of being forced to listen to Christmas carols and songs – all unrelentingly cheerful – blaring over the tannoy in shops or assailing your ears from brass bands situated, it can seem, on every street corner when they bring back the memory of hospital corridors, tinsel-decorated wards and then the finality of the coffin at the crematorium.

The Advent and Christmas seasons will always be, for me and I suspect for many others, bitter-sweet.

However, this past year – starting with the weekend before Advent in 2012, the one where we celebrated Christ the King, my personal roller-coaster ride from darkness to light has precisely mirrored the Church calendar – although I didn’t realise it until last weekend – Christ the King 2013 – when the roller-coaster finally came to a halt and I have been able to alight and survey calmly the place to which it has brought me – that is, the emotional, psychological, physcial and above all spiritual place to which it has brought me.

And for me, the juxtaposition of tenses in Psalm 27 exactly expresses the new awareness I now have as I look back over the past year.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes—they shall stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me,    my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.
One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.
Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!
“Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me.
Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help.
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!
If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up.
Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.
Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence.
I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

The Lord is my light, my salvation – present tenseWhom shall I fear? – future tense
My foes…shall stumble – future tense
My heart shall not fear – future tense
One thing I asked – past tense
That I will seek – future tense
To live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life – a strong sense of present continuous
He will hide me… will conceal me… will set me high – future tense
Now my head is lifted up – present tense
I will offer sacrifices…I will sing – future tense
Hear o Lord when I cry – present tense with a strong sense of an ongoing need for God’s help
‘come’‘seek’ – present tense command
Do not cast me off – a continuous awareness of our need for God’s support
And for the future – whatever it brings, even the unthinkable agony of parents forsaking children –  always the Lord will take me up – whenever- past, present future.

and then – all present tense:
teach me
lead meI believe
interspersed with a touch of past, present, future all wrapped up in the impassioned plea:
Do not give me up – implied future
false witnesses have arisen – past
and they are breathing – present

Surely all of this mad jumble is precisely what we should expect – and indeed how we find it to be – when moving into a deepening relationship with the God Who Is, the God Whose Name is “I Am Who I Am”, the Lord of all time for Whom every moment is “now”.

For just as past damage can reach into our present and threaten our future, so present healing can, by the power of God, reach into our past and bring us to a point where, in some sense, we have always been whole and thus free us for the future.

And in every ending is the seed of a new beginning, and in every beginning is the end of what has been and the birth of what will be.

And the season of Advent is the season of waiting and watching and above all being as we wait for God’s coming. Not just His coming at Christmas but His coming in every Now. And however dark or light our own particular Now is at this moment – and at this moment – and at this moment… however dark or light, if we bring our Now into the light of His Now then we too will shine with His light and lighten the darkness around us.

Therefore we can with confidence, and always in the present tense,

Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let our hearts take courage;
wait for the Lord!

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Dancing in
Immersed in the
Rejoicing in

Child of God, now
Saint in glory,
Joins with Mary, with
All the saints as,
Rejoicing in dazzling
Light, she
Prays with them for us and
Laughs with
Delight as,
Journey ended,
She finds at last

Eternal in her

Ceaseless praise
Is hers
Ceaseless praise
Be ours
Ceaseless praise
To Him
Who calls us to
Share, with her and all the saints, in His
Resurrection life

(In loving memory of Deidre Lang who departed this life on 23rd October 2013. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.)

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On why music is hard (with apologies to grahart for the plagiarism!) Or when up is down… or right… or towards… or away from…

A few days ago grahart posted On why science is hard .
He was talking about the way in which people’s eyes so often glaze over when faced with an unfamiliar polysyllabic word.

Now I just love words. I love their timbre (that’s only one syllable so no-one should glaze over at that one) and their rhythm (two syllables so probably safe). And I love understanding their etymology. Ooer – that’s five syllables and therefore definitely polysyllabic. Are you still with me or are you glazing over? Maybe I should have used a synonym (only three syllables – is that OK?) such as derivation (although that’s four syllables…).

One of my favourite words is penultimate. It holds the promise of an ending and therefore of an ensuing new beginning… but not quite yet. The present situation can be enjoyed for a little longer. So in a sense penultimate suggests that we can come close to having our cake and eating it.

Another favourite phrase is enharmonic equivalent. Of course, when faced with a couple of words like that, a rudimentary (five syllables – maybe I should have said basic) knowledge of Latin and Greek can smooth the way.  Equivalent comes from the Latin words aequus meaning equal and valere meaning to be worth. I daresay you all knew the word and it’s meaning, if not its etymology. Enharmonic is maybe less familiar. It comes from two Greek words en and harmonikos, which together mean “the same sound”. So we havein this phrase a coming together, in more ways than one. Both the words are themselves composite words with two elements each, and in each case the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And then the two words together unite two ancient languages and also themselves combine to create a whole which implies more than the sum of the parts. The enharmonic equivalent of a musical note is simply another way of notating precisely the same pitch.

Have I lost you yet? Or are you still following me?

So music – if we’re going to talk about it with one another in a technical sense – is hard in the way that science is hard. It contains jargon – words used in a highly specialised way. As a non-scientist (and I’m not proud of that – I fell into a 60s education-theory hole where it was OK to specialise too young and without a breadth of study) married to an electronics engineer I frequently come up against the tendency of scientists to take perfectly good, ordinary words and use them in a highly specialised way which can render them practically incomprehensible to me. I’m sure he would say he frequently comes up against the inability of a supposedly intelligent, educated woman to understand perfectly simple, basic concepts about the way the world works (in a physics sense).

Musicians, of course, use language in a perfectly rational and straight-forward manner (will all musicians reading this kindly refrain from catcalls and jeers at this point…).

After all, it’s quite simple. “Up” refers to higher sounding notes, higher-pitched notes (to help the scientists along here, let’s describe them as higher-frequency notes). And “down” refers to lower sounding notes, lower-pitched notes (lower-frequency for you scientist).

So if you play the piano – pay attention at the back there, or you might get a bit lost – you move your hand up to the right to play higher-pitched notes, and down to the left to play lower-pitched. Got that? Simple really.

And then, if you decide to branch out to play the cello, you just need to learn to move your left hand down the string away to produce higher pitches and up the string to produce lower pitches… except when crossing from one string to another when you might need to move your hand back up to produce a higher pitch. Unless you’re moving across the strings in the other direction in which case you might need to move your hand up to produce a lower pitch…

If you then fancied your chances at becoming a violinist, you would learn to move your left hand away from you to produce higher pitches and towards you to produce lower pitches… except when crossing from one string to another when you might need to move your hand towards you to produce a higher pitch. Unless you’re moving across the strings in the other direction in which case you might need to move your hand towards you to produce a lower pitch. Got it?

And as for flute, clarinet, oboe, trumpet… well it all depends on the fingering and the lips. And if you play the trombone the slide goes in and out for both up and down… simple really, just ask any professional musician.

Oh goodness… my poor brain hurts.

Time to switch off with some music…

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The Call of God

The Call of God

Out of the depths of

Pain and brokenness

God calls me

Onto the solid rock of

His love.

Out of the quicksands of

Guilt and blame

God calls me

Onto the solid rock of

His love.

Out of the depths of

Guilt and failure

God calls me

Onto the solid rock of

His love.

Out of the mire of

Anger and rage

God calls me

Onto the solid rock of

His love.

Out of my hopelessness

Out of my helplessness

God lifts me…

When I am powerless

To help myself

God lifts me…

When I am beyond effort,

At the end of myself

God lifts me…

God calls me

God lifts me

Onto the solid rock of

His love.

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Christmas Day 12 – A Question of Identity

Well here we are – Twelfth Night, the end of the church season of Christmas.

I’m fairly sure that today’s extracts from our advent book are intended to focus on baptism in general and our cleansing from sin in particular – but somehow I can’t quite bring that into focus.

What sprang out at me was that part of the baptism story when the spirit descends on Jesus like a dove and the voice from heaven says “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  And it got me thinking. There are an awful lot of “he”s in that sentence…

“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.”  Now it is clear that John is doing the baptizing. It is also clear that Jesus was being baptized and is the “he” who is coming up out of the water. What is less clear is who saw the heavens torn apart – John or Jesus. This question so intrigued me that I went to the parallel passages in Matthew and Luke. In Matthew the implication is stronger that all the”he”s refer to Jesus. In Luke there are no “he”s – the proclamation is simply stated that this is the Beloved Son of God, with no indication about who heard this amazing truth.

Until today I’ve always thought that John and the people heard the proclamation – now I’m really not so sure.  I now suspect that, at His baptism, obeying fully Abba Daddy God, Jesus Himself hears from His Father Who He is.  Let us never, ever forget that the Jesus we read about in the gospels was a flesh-and-blood really-truly-human guy.  He didn’t pop out of Mary’s womb fully grown or with a fully developed sense of identity and purpose.  He grew into a full understanding of His nature and His calling, just as we all need to do.

As I read and pondered upon this passage my mind also went to yesterday’s and today’s Gospel readings – the account in John’s gospel of Jesus calling His first disciples.  Yesterday He greets Simon with “you are Simon – you will become Peter”.  In meeting Jesus, Simon Peter finds his true identity. And as we know with hindsight, having read the end of the story, Simon Peter’s life with Jesus, sharing the day-to-day ups and downs and ultimately meeting Jesus in what he thought was his ultimate defeat, enabled him to grow into the fulness of his identity in Christ.  And today Nathaniel is told about Jesus and says “Nazareth? you must be joking! Nothing good ever came from Nazareth!”. His brother Philip responds by simply saying “come and meet Him for yourself”. Nathaniel does – and in that meeting finds that he is already known and recognised and accepted.

So just as Jesus discovered His true identity in relationship with the Father, and the Father confirmed that to Jesus when He was living in obedience, so we discover our true identity first by meeting Jesus and then living moment by moment in relationship with Jesus and through Him with the Father, who we discover is our Father also – for us too, God the creator of the universe is also our Abba Daddy God. It is in spending time with God, as Jesus did, that we are increasingly able to hear Him calling us by name – maybe even calling us by a new name – and revealing to us the fullness of the life for which we were born.

And as we step out into a new year and an unknown future, let us put our hands in the hand of the Man from Galilee and go with our heads held high, confident that He is right by our side every step of the way..

Thank you all for travelling with me over the past few weeks.

And here are other people posting on the Advent Book Club:

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