Monday, 26 July 2010

Haunted by a text

Having read the Bible over and over for a period of about 29-30 years, not only in my own private prayer times but as a priest with a parish, certain texts seem to follow me round more than others. They pop up first thing in the morning or as I slip into sleep at night, or they surface when I am asking God questions about something that is on my mind.

One of those texts is John 15:5 "...apart from me you can do nothing." The context is Jesus talking about the relationship between a branch and the vine and how the branch is utterly dependant on the vine for its life. Christ is the vine and the follower of Christ, the one in whom dwells the Holy Spirit, is the branch. No connection between the two - no flow of life and energy - no fruitfulness or life.

It seems such a simple illustration and a simple message but it is one which I forget so quickly and so easily. So sometimes I will rant at God asking why this idea has not worked or why I can't seem to shake some besetting sin and up pops the verse "apart from me you can do nothing" as if it was some silent companion walking quietly by my side that suddenly made himself known. The truth then dawns on me like a light in a dark room and for the next several days I do all I can to keep in constant touch with the vine which is Jesus. I have my regular quiet times, chat with God in the car, pray before each visit and ask for God's guidance and wisdom before each decision.

But then life picks up pace and demands begin to swamp my little boat and suddenly - well actually gradually - I am down again because I am struggling with things and feeling that I am tackling all my problems on my own. So I offload onto God and complain about why the Christian life doesn't seem to work. That is until once again "the verse", or a close cousin, pops up again and nudges me out of my stupor. By a close cousin I mean a connected verse. Take for example Psalm 1:3. In this verse it says of the person who meditates on God's Law day and night that he "is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." And this time Christ is not the vine but the water, and the verse sends me back to its close relative, John 15:5, and here I am again re-learning the lessons of previous encounters with God. This 'haunting' is God the Holy Spirit gently and patiently reminding me of what He taught me not once, but many times before. I am haunted by the text, His voice, and one day I will remember.

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