To Follow… - Reflection by Canon Mike
Read Canon Mike's reflection for Tuesday, 19 January 2021.
Over this past year, we’ve all become aware of the need to follow – to follow the government guidance and the latest rules sometimes different in different parts of the country; to follow a new life with more online connections and methods; to follow direction signs in shops and even our cathedral, which is where the ones in the picture above were taken just before we closed. Signs to help keep our social distance and limit the spread of the virus and the risk to us. None of this is easy – for ourselves, nor, let’s be honest, for those making the decisions and being mindful of the repercussions. The current closure of our cathedral was an extremely difficult decision to take, but a right one – in doing our part and being Christian; in loving neighbour and wanting to protect all of us as much as possible. And to once more continue reach out as best we can, or with new online ways, to all whom we love within our congregations and visitors.
But as disciples, following is something we are each familiar with, something we each wish to do; even if sometimes it’s hard or indeed sometimes we simply don’t achieve it. Jesus calls….we follow. Trust. That incidentally, was the title of my first sermon at Westcott House in Cambridge where I trained for the church, what seems like an age ago now, in 2010. The readings often used at this time of year remind us of the calling of the first disciples and invariably remind me of that sermon, and my own calling.
At the time, my fellow Ordinands thought I was nuts, because I volunteered to preach to the whole house, in my first term….when I had never done so before, ever. My logic was – well if it goes completely wrong, then I’d have two years to try to put it right. As it happened it didn’t – and then, as at times now, my trust in Jesus should’ve been stronger.
But it wasn’t just logic which prompted me to volunteer; I was still utterly amazed, as I still am even now, that God called me from a very secure and prominent role in the NHS, to serve people in a new way. I volunteered partly because I wanted to share just part of that wonderful journey of mine. How amazing, and scary, it all felt; how I felt compelled to resign from my job before actually knowing I’d be chosen for training. That Jesus had in fact been calling all my life in lots of different ways, and still is – which is why I still am active in my scientific and medical life; that finally the call had become so strong I simply had to turn around and say, “what Lord, what is it?” And when you do that, everything changes….then and now. That Jesus called and I followed. Trust.
In John 1:35-51, the evangelist recounts the calling of the first disciples – from their everyday lives, to something new and exciting; to Good News. We hear how the familiar names of Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip and Nathaniel are drawn out of their lives – feel compelled to turn around and ask what is it? Jesus often asks what they are looking for; or simply asks them to follow….and they do, usually instantly. Jesus invites them to Come and See. That invitation, often I imagine presented with pure love in human form, that gentle smile, those loving eyes, would bring instant trust. Sometimes it isn’t so instant, and a little more invitation is needed – like in the case of Nathaniel. He voices quite often the questions which go through my own mind, our own minds, when we don’t trust enough – really, are you sure? But when we do trust and we do follow, what we encounter is the loving teacher, the Son of God, the King of Israel.
For Jesus then, as now, is the one in whom we can put our ultimate trust, the one we can follow without worrying about it. In these times, Jesus is the one we can trust in, that we might hold onto….even just touch a thread of his garments. The one in whom we can put our ultimate. Often we doubt, often I doubt; we ask ourselves, is this right, what do I do next, are you calling me to really do this? But Jesus keeps inviting us to trust, to hold his hand, hold onto him, even if right now we cant do that with each other. He invites us to come and see God at work even now, through the hands we hold electronically or within our prayers and calls; come and see the love of neighbour at work through what we do to protect each other, to support each other, to sustain each other. To open our eyes to see the God given gifts which have been used by scientists, healthcare workers, by all there serving us and our most vulnerable….that will bring us through this current crisis. To listen out now for the familiar names who are being protected, being vaccinated, within our own communities. To see that we will be back together, seeing God at work in our cathedral; back to seeing and hearing our choir in person; back to singing and praising God with our own voices; back to inviting others to come, see, encounter a God through all the events and concerts which we hold.
Then, as now, Jesus calls – calls us to follow and be seen as following in caring for each other with all we can muster at this time. For we know that to follow Jesus is something we can do with complete trust….to follow him, we get the ultimate direction….to follow him is salvation and healing in all its forms. Jesus calls – we follow. Trust.
With my love and prayers for you all; God bless you and go gently.
Canon Mike 😊
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