Vicar's Letter - November 2019

       When I read the gospels I’m amazed at just how many times Jesus took himself and his disciples into liminal places.  These are dangerous, demanding and life-transforming spaces – risky locations in which thresholds are crossed and new lessons learnt.  Such spaces are gateways through walls which often require an ‘unmaking’ before a ‘remaking’ and we ‘naturally’ go through such spaces at certain times in our lives (e.g. our teenage years – which can be highly creative but also filled with risk, or a mid-life crisis which can be as equally liberating).  

Jesus however didn’t ‘naturally’ pass through such spaces – he seemed to actively seek them out.  They included his crossing of the river Jordan (a raging torrent in Jesus’ day) to leave behind his job, family, ways of praying, friends and community and at the point where Joshua led the Jews into the Promised Land.

Jesus goes into the desert – a space between the river and the city; a place of few comforts and one of isolation, but also a place of creativity and vision.

He took his disciples to the beach at Tyre and Sidon to glimpse big horizons – to lead them out of their comfort zones into a place of being disturbed.  The same can be said of when he leads the disciples to the other side of lake Galilee – enemy territory thought of as being dangerous, dirty and unclean.  Similarly Jesus leads his disciples through the no go area of Samaria when he didn’t have to (it wasn’t the most direct route to take!).

Why such behaviour?

Perhaps because Jesus  was constantly seeking to challenge his disciples to see the bigger picture – to not let them get too comfortable and sure of their own opinion; to not let them reduce everything to a binary view of this being ‘bad’ and that being ‘good’; this being ‘wrong’ and that being ‘right’.

We live in an age where our media, politicians and others increasingly seek to encourage us to see things as binary issues.  Such thinking leads to a very divided, tribalistic community that can forget that to be a community we actually need one another.  Jesus never reduced the identity of a human being to one issue – just think of how he interacted with all those that others sought to avoid (foreigners; women; children; the sick) - and he made sure that those closest to him didn’t either by constantly challenging their preconceived ideas of how they viewed others and the world.

Whenever and wherever we are called to ‘take a side’ remember Jesus’ deliberate challenging of his disciples to see the bigger picture.  There’s always one to see!