I am supposed to be a spiritual theologian, at least that’s what some people call me, but sometimes I feel that I know nothing at all, or at least nothing that will mean anything to anyone else. On one occasion I was sitting waiting for my train at Waterloo Station, London, feeling sorry for myself. ‘What Oh What’, I thought, would all that I believe in mean to the vast majority of outsiders who know little if anything of the Christian faith. How could I reach these people; after all the Gospel is for all, but what I believed in only seemed to be of interest to the few?
How Could I Reach These People?
I was watching the commuters, the tourists, the retail therapists and the other miscellaneous men and women rushing past me. They were of all ages, of all colours, and of all different shapes and sizes, but they all seemed to have one thing in common; they all seemed to be busy, in a rush, all totally preoccupied. I felt as if I were caught up in a Lowry painting, watching all the people passing to and fro, but these people were not burdened or bent with manual labour, their souls had not been sedated into submission in the ‘dark satanic mills’. They were upright and busy about their own business, they all seemed to be moving with purpose and intent, but what would they make of what I had written, and the talks I had given? What on earth would it mean to them, how could it enrich their lives, even if they stopped long enough to listen. I felt like an outsider, an interloper who had just landed on platform one from planet Zog. Then, suddenly, a young man of no more than eighteen or nineteen started to walk towards me smiling. I began to get worried when he quickened his step and opened his arms as he approached. Before I had time to take evasive action, the girl sitting next to me jumped up to be enfolded in his arms. Like a flash of lightening I saw the light, everything made sense that had made no sense before
If Their Dreams Could Come True
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that we had everything in common. They weren’t soul-less zombies after all. What did each one of them really want, what did they all have in common? Deep, deep down beneath the surface, they all wanted to love and to be loved. They all wanted to have a home, a family, or at least to be part of a loving family, where they could feel safe and secure. They all wanted to have a place that they could call home, where, if possible, all the personal selfishness, the petty jealousies, the small-mindedness, and the pernicious prejudices in themselves and in others, could be ‘spirited away’, so that nothing would come in the way of the perfect love, the perfect family, the perfect home for which they had always yearned. And, if all their dreams could come true, they would not only want to live in this perfect new world forever but ideally, they would want it to become ever more perfect, ever more enjoyable, ever happier and for this happiness to go on forever. If this could be offered to them, wouldn’t they listen, wouldn’t this be good news, the best news they’d ever heard?
Many years ago I spent Christmas Day with my friend Peter, his wife, their family of four Children, and a foster child, who used to spend some weekends and part of the holidays with them. After the four children had been given their presents the foster child was given what appeared to be a boring pile of papers. But when he looked at them he dissolved into tears – they were his adoption papers. When he finally wiped away the tears he danced around the room in joy. Henceforth he would never have to go back to the orphanage, in future he could call Peter his Father, even his Dad like the other children – this was the best news he had ever received, ever could receive.
A Tender Father
Some of you might have looked at that moving clip on YouTube when a convert from Islam told how, on reading the Gospels to see what the prophet Jesus had to say about Allah, he discovered something that changed his life. He discovered that Allah was not a distant God, but a tender loving Father, his Father, even his Dad. Abba was the word Jesus had used and told others to use when speaking to his Father. It was the word still used by young Arabs to-day to address their fathers, after all, he’d heard it often enough. The realisation moved him to tears, but it cost him dear before his new Dad could help him join the Christian family that he had dreamed about.
Born Christians too often take for granted the world-shaking truth, why Jesus came and the news he came to share with us. He is our brother, and we have the same Father, the Dad who has given us new life, and a temporary home with him in this life until we are ready for the home he has prepared for us in the next. This home, that he came from, and to which he will return, will one day be our home too. It is here that we will share to eternity in the utter peace, joy, and bliss of going out of ourselves through love, into endless ecstasy. We will share this experience too, not just with Jesus, but with all those we have loved on earth, but, purified of all the human weaknesses that once prevented us from loving them as we would have wished. This is what the first Christians called the Good News, the news that Jesus came to bring us. His message was that God is not just love but that he is loving us all the time, loving us not just as a father but as a Dad.
In the Old Testament God is called a Father only thirteen times and he tends to be a rather distant father, but Jesus taught that he is far more than that. He is a loving tender Father, a Dad, because he not only loves us, but he wants to communicate his own inner life to us. In that life is the source and origin of every form of love that can be found on earth, and every form of love that a person needs to become full, complete and mature human beings, ripe and ready, not just for marriage with another human being, but with God. Jesus did not just tell people about this love, but he showed them this love embodied in him and made it tangible through all he said and did while he was on earth, through his tender loving human personality.
When he was glorified he was still the same man as before, with all the human feelings and affections that he had on earth, but now they were brought to perfection. But that is only half of the story, for now that he has been spiritually raised above us, he can enter into us through the love that could once only be received by those, who were physically present to him.
That’s how he remains with us, no, not just with us, but in us, drawing us ever more deeply into himself and through him to the Father and into the perfect family for which we all yearn