Jesus the Mentor (1)

Jesus’ teaching can appear simple, but as soon as we begin to apply it, we discover that it is not simple at all. On the contrary, the process of applying it reveals many mysteries and paradoxes which Jesus addressed in his parables. These were designed to be memorable rather than transparent. The intention was that the parables would be remembered even if they were not immediately understood. If they were remembered, they could become food for thought later, in moments of quiet or questioning. And it was this process of reflection which would reveal the truth within them, and allow the hearer to draw comfort from it. And learn.

 

Jesus was not only concerned with having an immediate impact on his hearers. (seeds for a future harvest, too) He knew that a lot of what we hear, we forget. Or it enters the composting process of the mind and is laid down in layers of impressions which tend to reinforce the way we already think. Unless an experience or event has forced us out of the rut and startled us into a new way of thinking. In which case, we might be open to looking at our situation in a new way. But even then, the potential of Jesus’ teaching might not be apparent to us at once. Or we might be attracted to it, but doubt whether we can stay the course.

 

This was why the teaching he offered the crowd was only the starting point of his teaching method. It offered a way in. It was an invitation to take a second look, venture out, go a bit further. The real work was done in the school of faith, in long conversations with individual and smaller groups of disciples in which he made things clear “as they were able to hear it” and explained everything at length 4.33-34. Again and again. Helped them work through the implications for themselves. Made the gospel personal, specific and real.

How is it revealed? How does the truth hidden within the parables reveal itself? As people listen, as they pay attention to what they hear. There is a spiritual process at work here, of an investment which results in either increase or decrease 4.23-25.

Doing the “will of God” is a way of faith. A way of seeing, thinking, believing and acting from faith and not from fear. Jesus’ teaching is designed to enable his disciples to venture out in faith, countering the fear they found wherever they found it, in themselves, in others.

In doing so, they learned to “travel light” 6.6b-13. And those who endure to the end will be saved.

[What happens to those who are not willing to follow? Lost, damned, destroyed.]

 

Jesus was relatively relaxed about the impact of his teaching, believing that whatever happened to him, even if he was killed the truth of his message would continue working and in the end that truth would reveal itself. People would see it. Process had begun and would bear fruit. And there would be some who would discern it. Some people would not taste death until they saw that the kingdom of God had indeed come with power (9.1).

 

If this message, when preached and demonstrated, baptised Jesus’ hearers in a fountain of life and light, then it not only matters what Jesus said, but also how he said it. Indeed, the   “whatmust have fused with, and served, the “how. This suggests that Jesus was not focused on conveying information, or on making certain doctrinal points, but rather on helping people to see, think, speak and act in a particular way. His teaching did not present an idea or an argument or a thesis so much as open eyes, broaden minds, soften hearts and enliven spirits. It was not what he taught, but how he taught it, which changed peoples’ lives.

 

This “how” appears to have been a fluid mix of preaching, teaching and pastoral care, which occurred in peoples’ homes or “out on the road” wherever Jesus happened to be at the time. If he had a settled base, a programme that governed his travelling, a routine that he followed each day, or a pattern which he followed when teaching, we have little evidence of such. In fact, we have very little evidence that Jesus’ ministry was organised in any way at all. His relaxed authority suggests that he knew exactly what he was doing, and yet he seems to have operated without any structure to his hours, his days, his weeks, his years. If he had a plan, it is not divulged.

 

Nevertheless, some combination of what he said and did, and how he said it and did it, enabled peoples’ spirits to be touched by the Spirit of God.

 

This “how” bears further examination. It is my guess that Jesus had something. He had found a way of feeding the multitude. His aim was that everyone he encountered should experience abundant life for themselves. The good news was that there was a Way that people could find their own personal form of abundance. And a Way in which they could generate abundance in their relationships, households, families, networks and communities. There was a Way in which the whole nation could experience the abundant life God had to offer. This is what Jesus preached, taught and applied: the Way. It was both the content of the Gospel, and the means of delivering the Gospel.

 

The Way was a process. A creative process. Like all creative processes, it begins with a way of seeing, a vision, and then provides a strategy for making that vision a reality. So as the first stage of the process, Jesus sets out his vision of life as it ought to be, as he wants it to be, as he believes God wants it to be. What does he mean by a time of fulfilment? What is his vision of the kingdom of God? What does the life of God look like? What does it feel like? What difference does it make? What alternatives does it make possible?

 

At the very least, we can assume that Jesus, in his preaching, described an attractive alternative to life as people were currently experiencing it. It is also reasonable to suppose that his vision was formed by the Hebrew Scriptures, and in particular that it drew on those images and stories which elaborate the various ways in which God offers us abundant life. For Noah and his family, this was God’s promise that the world would never again be brought to the brink of destruction by flood; for Abraham and Sarah, it was the promise of descendents; for Moses and his people, it was freedom from slavery and a land of their own.[1] The examples can be multiplied. Throughout Scripture, visions, dreams, promises and covenants point us to different ways in which individuals and communities envisaged abundant life for themselves, and others. It can be argued that this is the great theme of the Bible: God’s commitment to giving humanity abundant life, and story of how the people of God received it, lost it and rediscovered it, many times over.

 

In that sense, the vision did not belong to Jesus at all: he preached what he himself had received - God’s covenant promises - God’s offer of shalom as envisioned in the Torah, the prophets and the writings. He announced a time of fulfilment, when God would bring to fruition the abundance that Israel expected to receive in the Promised Land: life in all its fullness - for individuals, couples, families, communities and the nation. What attracted people to Jesus was that he reawakened this longing within them; that he helped them imagine what this ancient dream would mean for them, in their day, in their circumstances; and then he convinced them it could come true.

 

In his preaching, teaching and pastoral care, Jesus helped people imagine abundance for themselves: a life that reflects the life of God. He helped people glimpse what abundant life might mean for them, not in a way that discouraged them, but in a way that enabled them to see how it might become reality. He convinced them that it was possible for their lives to change so that they became richer and more fruitful than they had been. He showed them how this might be: that people and situations might be transformed, that resources might be discovered and shared. Abundance for me, for you, for everyone. A life in which everything is gift, everyone is celebrated, every circumstance is a blessing and every moment is dedicated to God.

 

Jesus presented the kingdom in a way that connected the promises of God with the needs, wounds, concerns and anxieties of ordinary people. He articulated their longing for abundant life, a longing that they may not have known they possessed, and he did it in a way that connected with who they were and where they were in every sense. He enabled them to see it; to see how it would make a radical practical difference to their lives; to see how much they needed it and wanted it. He convinced his hearers that the Gospel was not only general and universal, applying to everyone in a vague (and therefore diluted) manner. It was also particular, personal and practical: it applied to them specifically, individually as well as corporately, and it applied to their deepest or most urgent needs.

 

This connection was vital - literally, life-giving - for it is the vision of abundance that renews us. Such a claim seems fanciful, even absurd, until we begin to ask ourselves “So what is “abundance?” and “How am I/are we “abundant?” How can we imagine, model and exemplify abundant life for all? How is that life received, developed and distributed so that it is truly available to everyone? How can we ensure that each person is able to receive, be filled, become fulfilled and overflowing with abundant life?[2] Exploring such questions reveals that “imagining abundance” is fundamental to our growth and welfare, both as individuals and in groups of all sizes, from family units to nations and peoples. But for our present purposes, we need to note that imagining abundance shifts our attention from product to process; to the process of growing in faith and, in particular, to those elements that engender spiritual life in our hearts and in our midst.  

 

The vision that renews me is actually quite specific. It is the vision of abundant life in a form that connects with me, where I am, here and now: that heals my wounds, meets my needs, guides my steps and resources me for the task that is before me. Likewise, the vision that renews you is personal to you. It is the vision of abundant life in that form which connects with you, where you are, in any given moment: that heals your wounds, meets your needs, guides your steps and resources you for whatever it is you must do to engage fully with the situation you are in.

My vision of “abundance” will differ from yours, but however great the difference between them, they are related, they have similarities, they share certain characteristics, they will arise from - and point toward - the same human values and eternal truths. The vision of what “abundant life” means for me, for us, for all, is endlessly varied and refreshed according to personality and context, but it is always there because it is universal. At the root of our most personal dreams is the longing for “abundant life”: an “abundant life” that in a myriad forms is available to all.  

 

However, elaborating the vision was only the beginning. Those who have glimpsed abundant life in a form that touches them, inspires them, feeds them, heals them, want more and more and more. Having raised the expectations of his hearers, Jesus had to deliver. He had to have a strategy for doing so, a means for doing so, a way of doing so. The vision of abundance raises the question as to how this life was made available, accessed, realised; how people could move from where they were to their personal, or communal, “Promised Land”; that place of abundance where they wanted to be, where God wanted them to be.

 

Elaborating the vision was only the first stage of the process. Having showed them the road they must travel, and the journey they must make, Jesus then taught - and demonstrated - the way they would take it. He gave them the strategy and demonstrated it. He showed them how it worked. He laid out the whole process for them, so that they could learn it and apply it for themselves. He not only expounded the promises, he showed them how the blessings were obtained.

It was this combination of vision and strategy that formed Jesus’ “Way”: the Way that enabled people to change direction, to re-order their lives, to do things differently so that they could live the dream. It was this combination of vision and strategy that convinced people that change - radical change - was indeed possible.

When we have both a vision of abundant life that attracts us, and a strategy for realising it that is fitted to our capabilities, then we can believe that there is a genuine alternative to the status quo, that people can change, that situations can be transformed, that events can play out differently, and that political, social and economic realities can be challenged by spiritual imperatives. We believe it because we now know how it happens, and we are fully equipped to make it happen. We have all that we need to change direction.

 

Jesus’ preaching brought about change because he offered his hearers both a vision and a strategy for making the vision a reality. The Gospel, as he preached it, was a process - a way of proceeding - that encouraged people to imagine abundance, enabled them to believe it was for them, personally and corporately, and then equipped them to attain it. The Gospel did not only set out a vision of abundance, but also showed people how to attain abundance in a form fitted to their practical and particular needs. It was a way of accessing the power to change.

 

[1]     Genesis 8.13-9.17; 12.1-7; 17.1-15; Exodus 3.1-17.

[2]     I intend to explore these questions in another forthcoming book, “Imagining Abundance”.

Invited to a process

We are called into a “deserted place” to spend time with Jesus. We are complex personalities: this time is necessary to us for three reasons.

 

Firstly, we need it so that we can know that we are received: seen, heard, understood and welcome - regardless of how we feel about ourselves. a space in the present moment. The invitation reminds us we are seen, heard, known and loved. And that someone who loves us wants an opportunity to appreciate us. To listen to us. To pay attention to us. To give to us. To honour us.

 

Secondly, we need it so that, with Jesus, we can unpack the abundant life that the Father has given us. in this space, Jesus wants to hug you, thank you, encourage you, bless you. You are invited to relax, receive and be renewed.   Jesus does not seek us out, call us or command us in order to meet his needs. He is only concerned to meet ours. He wants to feed us. He wants to set us free. He wants us to know peace. This is how we know that he is good for us, because in him we discover abundant life; through him we receive abundant life. This is how we know that Jesus is with us: because we experience abundance. This is how we identify those places where Jesus is at work: because they feed us, usually on several levels at once. We feel enriched, replenished, fulfilled.

 

And thirdly, we need it so that we have time and space in which to enjoy what we have received. Abundance has to be “unpacked” in order to be seen, discovered, appreciated, felt, made specific, personal and real. Abundance has to be “unpacked” so that we can enjoy it. Otherwise it remains - like an unwrapped present forgotten under the Christmas tree - an unrealised potential. We need time and space so that we can take the blessings of God’s life into the very depths of our being; so that we can reflect upon all that God is giving us, and discover the abundance in it. God’s grace is always sufficient for us. But the abundance may not be obvious; the blessing may not be apparent; it may not look like grace at all.

 

The art of abundance is paying attention. The art of abundance is the process of paying attention. We pay attention to what we have, in our hands, and we pay attention to the process of working with it.

 

This is how our faith is lived out: by making the journey into the “deserted place” so that we can discover - or rediscover - the abundant life that God has already given us. And understand that he has promised us more.

 

We tend to think of faith in terms of doctrine, statements, assertions, creeds, convictions, ideas and beliefs but faith is only partly about what we think. It is rather more about how we think, and how the way we think influences everything else about us. Alternatively, we might think of faith as experience - as an emotion or energy that is revealed or conveyed by speech or action. But again, this understanding is incomplete. Faith is certainly energy, but it does not always express itself as a strong emotion, and it is revealed and conveyed, not so much by what we do, as by the way we do it. The truth is that we are complex, multi-layered personalities: our faith is an expression of our whole selves, and of the extent to which we are whole, or at least aspiring to wholeness.

 

It is the vision of life, especially abundant life, and most especially abundant life for all, that encourages us to embark on a venture in faith. We are led, and fed, by what we see. What we see engenders faith in us - or not - depending on what it is we are looking at, focusing on, or imagining.

 

We catch a glimpse of something that attracts us - usually because it looks like a form of abundance - and head towards it. We see something that is worth doing - usually because we hope it will generate life - and do it. We are caught up by a vision of abundant life and work to make it real. We search for vital - that is, life-giving - work. Vision turns a movement into a journey. A vision of life, in a form that is available, accessible and suited to our need, gets us moving and gives us purpose and direction. The faith to step out, move out, move on and keep going is generated by what we see, what we imagine; by the vision we place - and keep - before us.

 

The vision that most effectively engenders faith is the vision of abundance. Fruitfulness. Fulfilment. Quality. Quantity. Profusion. Plenty. Peace. Overflow. Beauty. Magnificence. Grandeur. Majesty. Infinity. Potential. Glory. Abundance can take many forms: for example, an object, a location, a relationship, an experience, a building, a lifestyle, an attainment or an achievement. But whatever form it takes, it points to a richness beyond itself, a plenty that is - or feels - unending, a wealth that resonates with an instinct deep within us. We want it, and we want it to the full. In faith, we embark on a process which we hope will enable us to find, engender or create what we have imagined, or at least something that resembles it.

 

We use processes to move towards what we have seen. The more creative the process we deploy, the more it will also be an expression of faith. To exercise faith in this holistic sense is to be engaged in a creative process, a process of creativity. Processes that are creative expressions of faith generate life. The more they are creative and faithful, the more life they generate. Even at the lower end of the scale, they can generate a recognisable abundance. The more people invest their creativity and faith in the process, the more abundance they will generate, convey, share.  

 

To exercise faith is this ability, first to see, and then to move towards, or work towards, what we have seen. Faith is the process we use to move from where we are to where we want to be (or to where God wants us to be). To keep faith is to hold to our vision and pursue it even though the process takes a long time and throws up many difficulties. Faith is dynamic. It is a way of moving, working, growing, creating, allowing a project to emerge and enabling it to develop to fulfilment. Faith is a way of changing and responding to change. A person of faith is someone on the move towards their personal vision of abundance, or working with others on a shared vision of abundant life for all. Or both, at the same time.

 

We “see” the vision with a combination of physical sight and imagination. Both are important and support each other. We feed our imaginations by looking around us and paying attention to what we see, hear, smell, touch, taste. What we see inside our heads changes as we express it, as we work with physical materials - or with other people - to realise the vision.

 

Put like that, it sounds simple. In that sense, God is simple, and God’s desire for us is simple. Abundant life for all. But while God may be simple, human beings are not. In practice, the application of this simple process is usually complicated, often contradictory, endlessly varied, and frequently resisted. It is a process of bringing order out of chaos: of honouring diversity, discovering common ground, building on shared values, and in so doing, reconciling extremes.

 

Human beings are complex, multi-layered personalities. In addition, each one of us carries wounds from our past. So the faith-process is never straightforward. Indeed it is likely that all our story-telling originates in our need to make sense of the human journey, of the way in which we need to see, think, speak and behave if we are to live life to the full. Despite the vast diversity of stories we tell, they all touch on a single, universal theme: how do we gain abundant life? And what happens if we fail?

 

Because we do fail. What we realise is never quite what we have seen, and if we have invested too much of ourselves in one very specific, closely-defined outcome, then we will probably be disappointed. Such setbacks raise in us an anxiety that the “abundance” we dream of is lost, or was never intended for us at all, or is forever unattainable. This is our greatest fear: that instead of being intended for life, we have been abandoned to death, a death, moreover, that is more than the cessation of life. What we fear most is the destruction of everything that we have ever valued: the utter annihilation of every good that we have ever known.

 

Faith and fear are active within us as two dynamics moving in opposite directions. Each moment, we choose between the two, by choosing how we are going to think about an event or situation. Generally, we use ways of thinking that were ingrained in us at an early age, that we learned from those around us as we were growing up, and which have therefore become habitual to us. Using these routine ways of thinking, our choice is made before we open our mouths to speak or move our bodies to act. And this choice is between processes governed by faith or processes governed by fear, because most, if not all, our mental processes are governed by one or the other. Moment by moment, we choose whether we are going to live from faith or from fear.

 

The life of faith begins as we realise that we are making this choice, and as we decide that, as often as we can, we will choose ways of thinking that are governed by faith, that tend towards creativity, life and abundance. The life of faith continues as we hold to that choice; and deepens as we hold to it despite the obstacles that fear throws in our way.

 

To choose life, and to keep on choosing life, we need to keep before us a vision of abundance. Our personal vision of what it means to live life to the full. The difficulties and dangers of the road do not have to mean that this dream is lost. While we retain our ability to imagine, the dream remains with us, ephemeral but alive, morphing, developing, growing, intensifying, magnifying.

 

Many of us have become so wounded by life that we have suppressed our large desires. Unwilling to add to our pain by revisiting dreams which may be forever beyond our reach, we choose not to imagine abundance for ourselves at all, in any shape or form. We deny our dreams, refuse gifts, resist any attempt to honour us or to celebrate who we are. We become convinced that it is not worth envisioning abundant life because it is not for us, and never will be.  

 

In one way we are correct. It is unlikely that we will ever realise anything that expresses our “sense of abundance” in its entirety. There is a good reason for this. Our “sense of abundance” is a window into infinity: how can anything we create or receive convey more than a fragment of the wonder of eternity? So yes, we are right. Abundance in its greatest, fullest sense is always beyond us, and always will be. It is a dream that can never come true. Not completely.

 

The trouble is that we draw the wrong conclusion from this. We conclude that because abundant life is always beyond us, it is impossible for us to enjoy it at all. We assume that it is not available to anyone, or at least not available to us. Or perhaps we decide that we have missed the boat, lost our chance, ruined our opportunities, messed up so badly that we will never know it now. We may even come to believe that anyone who claims to enjoy abundant life is a fraud, or a coward, or a criminal, or is somehow deluded, because the abundance they claim to possess cannot possibly be genuine or it cannot possibly be rightfully theirs.

 

We resist the possibility that there is abundant life for us because in this respect our fear is greater than our faith. But the call to withdraw with Jesus into the “deserted place” offers us a way out, and a way back to the life God intends us to enjoy. The emptiness and nakedness of the desert is purifying because it does not allow us to escape into any of our numerous distractions. It is honest because it reflects back to us the starved and emaciated condition of our souls. And yet it is also a place where we discover renewal, because we enter the desert with Christ, who shows us how to discover in the desert the bread of life that feeds us.

 

When we enter the wilderness with Jesus Christ, it is an altogether different experience to entering the desert by ourselves. Because Jesus shows us a vision of abundance; a vision that reinforces our will to choose life. More, Jesus gives us an experience of abundance; an experience that demonstrates how resources are found. Equipped with both a vision and a strategy, we are empowered to hold to our choice - to renew it and reinforce it, day by day.

 

So we need to hear again Jesus’ call to accompany him into the “deserted place”.   Because the time we spend with him in this place will strengthen our creativity and our faith. It will enlarge our vision of the blessings that God wants to pour out on us, and that God wants to make available through us for others. As we spend time in this “deserted place” with Jesus, it becomes the “broad place” or the “spacious place” of which the psalmists sang. Our tiny portion of the promised land.

 

We are creative beings, made in the image of the Creator. Jesus, son of a carpenter, himself a craftsman, taught fishermen that their professional skills could be turned to a richer purpose: the task of sharing abundant life with everyone they met. The fishermen exercised faith in the use of their wisdom and skills, and Jesus showed them how that faith, wisdom and skill could be applied to a completely different context. Similarly, reminds us that we are most truly ourselves when we are creating things, replicating ourselves, making our mark, working with our environment, putting ourselves out into the world, enlarging our scope, expressing all that is within us, magnifying and making material our vision of all we might become.

 

Here again, faith is not about what we have, but what we do with it. It is not about the materials we use or what we make of them. We exercise faith simply in the act of creating. By practising our craft and making art, we express our faith in ourselves, one another, and in a larger reality. We do not invest ourselves in the products we create, because, however much we or others might value them, they are, at best, inadequate expressions of the glory to which we aspire. Instead, we invest in the process, in the act of creating. When we create, we are most truly alive, and most truly ourselves.

 

With Jesus, the “deserted place” becomes the “broad place,” but it always remains my place. Yours will always be your place. Jesus waits to be invited in. He waits for us to accept his invitation to join him on the journey. He does not impose himself or coerce us. He is the perfect guest, making himself at home but always treating the furniture with respect. Because he loves you, and your “broad place” is furnished with your dreams and your desires. It is the expression of your spirit. It is the place where Jesus meets with you, as you are, to meet your need.

And so that you and he together can create life in the world.

 

Images a huge help here. Use words (if at all) to evoke rather than re-state. Describe rather than define. Describe in an open-ended, evocative way. To describe and explore, rather than to define. Re-imagine the familiar. Reframe the problems. Refresh the vision.   New perspective. See alternatives. Feel expanded choice. More resources. Another horizon. Potential.  

 

Allowed it to take us into itself. Allowed us to receive what it offers. Value of story (novel and film) in creating alternative worlds. Live the alternative in our imaginations first before we can live it in reality. Both are essential to us, and the connection between the two - the transference between the two. Rehearse. Practise.

 

Our mind creates our picture of ourselves and the world around us; it generates our emotions and focuses our energies; it reasons and remembers; it follows deep paths of principle, instinct, conviction, direction, purpose and will. And it possesses layers and recesses where what we know is infused with what we do not and perhaps cannot, observe or conceptualise. But the gate to the mind is our ability to see, perceive and imagine.

 

Our projects are projections. We imagine a task before we do it. We envisage an event or person or process or product and this prompts us to put a date in our diaries, hold a conversation, write a letter or bake a cake. Imagining the task - however briefly - stimulates other important mental processes: for example, our judgement that the task is valuable, worthwhile or in some other way important to us; decisions as to how, when and where we will do what needs to be done; and our sense that we have the resources (energy, interest, strength, commitment etc.) to do it. These three factors each play a part in ensuring that we act - if any one of them is doubtful, we may perform badly, or we may not act at all - but the leading faculty is our imagination. The way in which we “see” the task governs and feeds the whole process, for good or ill.

Our imagination is vital to our experience of the journey. It is the way we think - and, specifically, the way we imagine - that determines whether or not our movement is a journey, made in faith and continued in faith; that determines the extent to which the process generates life. The eye is the “lamp” of the body. If our ways of seeing are healthy, we are filled with light and radiate light, but if our ways of seeing are unhealthy, then everything we think, say and do becomes increasingly distorted and destructive. If the only “light” we have is a twisted and embittered view of the world, then how can we expect to discover, enjoy or share abundant life? It is impossible.  

 

The journey towards abundant life begins and ends in the mind.

The discovery: a labyrinth.

Can also provide a map or guide for travellers who come after.

To the Israelites and Judaeans and later the Jews during their settled and more secure periods - alternative world was the wilderness - place of abundance (where we learn what abundance is and how we appreciate it and receive it.

Images of process, on the move, journey.

Lived in tents, not buildings. Small group (or a great people) flexible forms including sanctuary.

Return to the wilderness in actuality or imagination. This alternative reality helped them to adapt to changes in their real environment. Allowed them to anticipate further change and to see it as giving abundance rather than producing a threat. Recognised that change was threatening and provoked anxiety, but that they could prepare for engagement, defend themselves against predators that flourish in times of chaos. Imagery of wilderness helped them to become adaptable, to make the necessary adaptations to their behaviour etc. and remain adaptable so that they were resilient in the long term.

focus on those elements of theology, spirituality and praxis that

Engender, support, sustain transformation

Help us manage change in a manner consistent with our pastoral care.

Make a creative, holistic and intuitive response to it (as well as a defining and disciplined response).

 

God is simple, and God’s desire for us is simple. Abundant life for all. But while God may be simple, human beings are not. In practice, the application of this simple process is usually complicated, often contradictory, endlessly varied, and frequently resisted. It is a process of bringing order out of chaos: of honouring diversity, discovering common ground, building on shared values, and in so doing, reconciling extremes.

 

Human beings are complex, multi-layered personalities. In addition, each one of us carries wounds from our past. So the faith-process is never straightforward. Indeed it is likely that all our story-telling originates in our need to make sense of the human journey, of the way in which we need to see, think, speak and behave if we are to live life to the full. Despite the vast diversity of stories we tell, they all touch on a single, universal theme: how do we gain abundant life? And what happens if we fail?

 

Because we do fail. What we realise is never quite what we have seen, and if we have invested too much of ourselves in one very specific, closely-defined outcome, then we will probably be disappointed. Such setbacks raise in us an anxiety that the “abundance” we dream of is lost, or was never intended for us at all, or is forever unattainable. This is our greatest fear: that instead of being intended for life, we have been abandoned to death, a death, moreover, that is more than the cessation of life. What we fear most is the destruction of everything that we have ever valued: the utter annihilation of every good that we have ever known.

 

 

Jesus does not seek us out, call us or command us in order to meet his needs. He is only concerned to meet ours. He wants to feed us. He wants to set us free. He wants us to know peace. This is how we know that he is good for us,
because in him we discover abundant life; through him we receive abundant life. This is how we know that Jesus is with us:


because we experience abundance.

 

This is how we identify those places where Jesus is at work: because they feed us,
usually on several levels at once. We feel enriched, replenished, fulfilled.

 

 

 

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