Reflections Blog

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A thought from Revd Paul

Dear Friends,

A hypothetical question. If Our Lord were to return in a physical form, what might the new composition of the Twelve Apostles be like? I'm not going to produce my suggestion (I wouldn't dare!), but you may like to attempt it yourself. The one thing that I can guarantee is that there would be no resemblance to the Twelve who walked with Christ two thousand years ago. The more I think of what those Twelve were like, the more amazing a collection of misfits they seem to have been.

Who really were they? Peter and Andrew, with James and John, ordinary fishermen in the most ordinary part of a very ordinary area. James and John were also the local hard men, known as the Sons of Thunder – men with fists and with tempers. Thomas the searcher, full of doubts but as brave as a lion. Nathaniel, possibly gifted but fiercely parochial, probably born and bred in the area. Then the real contradictions. Matthew the quisling, who made his living by collaborating with the hated Roman occupying forces. As total opposites the terrorists, Simon the Zealot and Judas from the Sicarii, the People of the Dagger. Why, oh why, did Jesus chose such a group of non-Establishment men as His disciples? Surely He should have chosen more conservative, more politically and religiously acceptable men with whom to share His earthly ministry? If I am fascinated by Jesus' human nature (parallel with His divine nature) then part of it lies in why He chose them when He must have known what they were like. I simply don't know the answer.

Perhaps apart from being young and very idealistic they represent a cross section of the man in the Galilean street in those days. They were all very different people except in these two respects, but from what we can deduce they were ordinary. Their humanness is for me what makes them so attracting; they could be like you or anyone you live and associate with. They are real people, with failings rather than being perfect.

It is in the light of this that we may get closer to the great festival this month that is Whitsunday, or if you prefer it, Pentecost. We need to see it in a symbolic way because it simply could not have happened physically in that way without structural damage and the deaths of many people. Two aspects stand out above everything. One is that the disciples were empowered with tremendous zeal and energy to continue Christ's work. The other is that the message they proclaimed was to people who represented the entire world. It was a reaching out to absolutely everyone; that is the real meaning of that list of nations that so many readers fear to read in public at this time of the year. The new faith was to all people, regardless of their race, creed, and colour. And it was too important for the disciples to keep to themselves. 

That is why Christianity has been the greatest civilizing force that the world has ever known. It is why in its very ordinary roots it has crossed all barriers and become a fundamental part of humanity as a whole. Pentecost reaches out to all people at all time and offers to anyone who will listen and accept its message. God is for all; His call is universal. Through His Spirit, God reaches out in love to everyone; that is what we proclaim, that lies near the heart of what we believe.

With my love and best wishes,

Paul

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