A few years ago, when I first started going to a small local church, and when my faith was prodded until it woke up, I would walk on the cold seashore in the mornings and try to reimagine it as the the shore of the Sea of Galilee (I’ve warbled about that before) trying to imagine what would have been like to walk with Christ. I longed to know him better, hankering after those ancient days, a bit miffed that I hadn’t been born then, in that war torn dusty region, always trying to imagine, to reach back, to find a place for myself in his time.
That’s because I am at heart simple and ridiculous. Would I really have been one of the women who supported him and then went on to provide for the growing church after his death? No way. I’m not a great joiner – I fell into the Army at 18 and then I didn’t join another single group until I was 67. I think it’s unlikely that, left to my own devices, I would have given everything up, even for a Saviour.
Over these last few years, I’ve come to realise that I have a far, far more intimate relationship with Jesus now than I could have had back then. Then, as a woman in a fiercely chauvinist society, I would have heard him from a distance but now I walk in him, and he walks in me. My knowledge of Jesus is far deeper now because I’m no longer left to my own devices, nor is any one of us. The faith we have now is from him, and it grows from his nourishment, and without his death it would not have been possible.
But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you (John 16:7)
It really is for our good that Jesus was ‘going away’. It’s for my good that he came as man, and it’s for that same good that he died in shame and agony. Because now, my little snoodlepips, forgiven and redeemed by him, I belong to him, heart and mind and soul. His. The Luce who would have met him, on the shore of Galilee, before Pentecost, before the story was told… would I really have been his? You know me by now surely? Stubborn, contrary, judgmental, fearful, awkward, reclusive, impatient, impulsive, weird.
Now I am still all of those things but all of those things PLUS. Plus the Spirit of a loving God who loves me anyway, and makes it possible for me to love others, plus the knowledge of the crucifixion and the resurrection, plus the sure and certain hope of life everlasting. Which would be a right old boring thing to be assured of except, EXCEPT (sorry, I’m a bit exclamatory today) eternity will be in the presence of God. The God who loves me with a perfect love, the God who I will love with his perfect love. Bliss. The God who will transform me. Amazing!
When I walk on the beach every morning, or sit on my log, or paddle, gazing at the sky and lost in wonder and praise (or sometimes just thinking about coffee) I’m there with Jesus. I’m in eternity. Encountering Jesus, for us, isn’t an incident in a busy life as it was for the woman who touched the hem of his robe, or the woman at the well…. it’s an all day everyday fabulous exciting adventure and privilege.
Too many adjectives. I don’t care.
We’ve had a series of sermons about ‘encounters with Christ’ and it’s been a great series, like our ‘red letter words’ series, just getting to know more about Jesus when he walked on this earth, watching his interaction with the people around him, our brilliant Jesus who said the words our hearts need to hear. If we’re Christian, we’ve encountered Jesus, yes, of course we have, but much much more than even that, we continue to encounter Jesus every day. It’s like one of those Greek tenses, we don’t just encounter, we continue….
As I chatted with my granddaughter yesterday it was as if I was holding her up to God, saying “Look what you’ve given me, all this, all this, all this…. and this grandchild, and all this love. ” and I was warmed by the knowledge and certainty that he was there with us. Galilee in West Wales.
Flip me, chickadees, there’s a real danger that I’m going to get soppy in my old age. It must be a Celtic overload – Irish genes and Welsh environment.
Shoot me now.
Before I go, here’s a story that’s hard to tell and maybe hard to hear. I know it will make me look deluded to some people, but this is what happened, and if I look a fool for Christ, well, I’ve looked worse things:
About 4 years ago, I was on one of my morning saunters – I can’t really call them walks, they’re slow and ambling as I stop and start, gazing at the sky, watching the sea foam eddying around my feet, the gulls soaring. I was paddling happily, feeling the sun on my back and heading towards a rock where I planned to pray for a while. Suddenly I was in one of those enchanted moments, when the world slips away, leaving only the soul and God. Nothing to dilute the crystalline otherness, and I said to God – without any planning, straight from the core of me – something like “It’s so long since I had someone’s hand to hold, someone I could share this moment with, and I think I can’t quite bear it – 25 years is too long” It wasn’t a moan, it was just a thought, an honest moment of longing. It wasn’t a complaint that George is dead (he’s in glory and I’m delighted for him), no, it was an honest human need for companionship. And as I walked towards the rocks, with my dogs pattering on ahead, I felt a hand slip into mine. It was so real that I was startled and turned to see who had sneaked up on me. No one. But I felt the hand, the warmth and the reality of it. I know that this wasn’t wishful thinking, I looked down at my hand, relaxed, ordinary, and still I felt the muscle, bones, actuality of a hand in mine. Breathless. Hardly believing, savouring the sensation, almost hefting the hand I could not see. It stayed with me for maybe ten steps, and then was gone just as suddenly.
My breath was taken away, tears threatened, but my heart was just so full of amazing delight. That hand, holding mine, has been with me, ever since. Four years of ups and downs and struggles, joy and sadness, but when loneliness strikes I remember that hand, and the memory is a deep comfort. I am not alone. I walk on the shore with God. What an amazing God. How good he is.