The 4th Sunday after The Epiphany

It was a split second … ok, maybe a bit longer … 2 seconds max. I nearly drove … straight into a wall! I had parked the car facing a wall and noted when I parked that my front wheels were on the smallest of upward inclines. Simple solution – that’s what hand brakes are for. I locked the car and went on my way. When I returned I packed the car, sat in the driver’s seat, engaged the clutch, turned on the engine, put on the seatbelt – it was the normal routine – having done it numerous times most days. But was I thinking? The car rolled backwards a fraction – that was the direction I wanted to go so I let out the clutch with my hand on the gear stick … and things were not making sense. My whole body, my senses, was going in reverse but my hand was trying to tell me that it wasn’t in the space it should be when the gear stick is reverse position. So I was simply shocked – my world ‘exploded’ – as the car went forward and the wall jumped at me. Still confused but aware enough of the wall getting closer when it should have been getting further away, I slammed on the brakes and stopped in time. The whole thing happened far quicker than it took me to write or you to read!

If you had frozen me in time – and took me out of it to have a conversation – about starting the car and moving, I would have said – testified even – that I was in reverse gear and reversing out to drive away. My whole experience of those seconds affirms that truth. My ‘niggle’ about my hand being in the wrong position for reverse (the gear stick was in first gear) wasn’t really noticed at the time. Simply I got in the car and reversed out and the car went forward. I was wrong. Not maliciously wrong. Not deliberately or deceptively wrong. Simply wrong. I made a mistake and it had no horrible consequences (I didn’t die because I looked the wrong way crossing the road for example or touched something toxic and poisoned myself). Because I lived I can incorporate the experience to serve as a warning to me to be a more-aware driver and as a reflection for me now as I write.

That’s how we live. Experiences are important! We can’t live without them. However they can also be mistaken, not tell the full story, and even become a trap for us if we rely on them only and so we have to make the decision whether to trust them. Of course to get through the day we just live the experience, the moment, but the experience doesn’t necessarily tell us why we’re living. Why do we live? Why are we here? Who am I?

The foundational question and issue in life, I think, is one of trust. In whom will I trust? Parents? Family? Tribe? I will only come to know them through experiences and the words that surround everything. That’s the key … the words.

Whose words are listened to? Whom do we follow? Who is on your Facebook friends list or your Twitter feed? Celebrities? Scientists? Media – the ones we trust? Politicians? Religions? We have more and more from which to choose! No longer is it the local feudal lord who says and makes life what it is. In our affluence and society we have much choice about how to live. Will we seek to make sure we get the best experiences each day?

So many questions! They can be easy to ask. Harder to answer at times. For Christians the answer lies in the intimate amalgam of experience and words from a library called the Bible and choosing to trust the words in the Bible because they reveal Jesus to us. Many experiences can also testify to Jesus – spiritual ones, moving worship ones, musical ones – and many experiences tell us that Jesus is either a fantasy or a dangerous delusion. Don’t follow Jesus, you’re going backwards not forwards! The experiences are us – part of us – but so are the words. And when we find we’re actually going the wrong way, there is a mystery that the words hold us, don’t leave us, get ‘heard’ – recalled, remembered – even at the weirdest times and the truth dawns, is remembered, rediscovered that it is not us clinging to life but the Word made flesh holding onto us.                                                 GS