Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
Wednesday is the Feast Day of St Mary Magdalene. As she is the Patron Saint of our church we celebrated her festival last Sunday. Unfortunately, we were unable to do so together as a family in church but “virtually”, but I don’t suppose she would mind.
July has always been a difficult month at home, as an unseemly number of annual bills fall due this month. The situation has been made worse this year as a couple of major items of household equipment needed to be replaced. And, of course this coronavirus has meant that we have been “confined to barracks” for over three months now. When are we going to be able to get out to meet our family and friends in person? Or even just go shopping as we used to do? Oh, and one of the roses is not doing at all well. In fact I had thought of replacing it later this year. Where was God in all this? I know people continually ask that question, perhaps more than ever during these dark days, but sometimes it does seem that He has abandoned us.
This morning I went out into the garden and there was a bloom on the little rose! It seemed to say to me “Did you not recognise me? I have been here all the time and will continue to be. I promised never to leave you or forsake you. Did you forget that?”
Like St Mary Magdalene I had failed to recognise Jesus at first, but he had been there all along.
As I was writing an essay about the Hebrew covenants for my course assignment I must have dozed off.
What was I doing on the banks of this river flowing through the desert? Who were all these people listening to this wild-eyed, ranting, madman? I should be in class in the city studying the Torah or listening to the wise words of the Rabbi, since I was training to become a priest myself. Yet there is something mesmerising about this fellow. ‘Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is come near’ he is shouting. One of our group asked if he was Elijah for we know that Elijah will come again to foretell the coming of the Anointed One, the Messiah, but he said that he was not. He said that he was the one foretold by Isaiah ‘the voice crying out in the wilderness “Make straight the way of the Lord”’. What intrigued me was when he said that there was an unknown person in the crowd who was far greater than he. We’ve heard predictions like that before, Nehemiah said something similar many years ago, but we know that the Messiah will be one of us, not one of this ignorant rabble. Yet, I hung about for a while, I was in no hurry to get back to class. A long queue was building up for the wild eyed rabble rouser, whose name was John apparently, to baptise in the river. In the main they were all peasants from the surrounding area, but one man stood out. He was a tall chap who seemed to have a quiet air of authority about him. Someone said he was a local carpenter, but there was just something about him that made people pay attention. When it came to his turn John hesitated but the carpenter urged him to go ahead.
I had been with John for a few days when the carpenter passed by. John said that he knew this man was God’s chosen one because he saw a dove descend on him at his baptism. God’s chosen one? The Messiah? This ragged carpenter? At first I did not believe it, but John urged me to follow him. I found out where he was staying and went to listen to him. I think it was the dove descending on him that settled things for me. You see, all covenants God made with the Israelite nation in the past were confirmed with a sign, the rainbow in Noah’s case, for example. The dove was the sign that the carpenter was the new covenant of whom Nehemiah spoke, the Messiah.
I gave up my classes and followed the carpenter for the next three years. It all seemed to be going so well when we entered Jerusalem that last time, but as I hid in the crowd at the execution ground, everything had gone wrong. It was never supposed to be like this. Later He appeared to us again in that upper room. Thomas expressed all our feelings saying Him “My Lord and My God”. But Jesus asked a very pertinent question: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
I believe. What about you, you who have not seen?
I am an Authorised Local Preacher in an Anglo Catholic parish church, in the Diocese of Essex UK