28 March 2023

Faith Matters

Article by Brendan Nicholls - Liturgy Coordinator

Faith Matters

As we move towards the great celebration of Pentecost we take a moment to reflect upon the Easter ‘narrative’. These key moments we know so well; so much so that we often rely on the celebration rather than a personal encounter with the text. Reflecting upon your engagement or consumption of scripture may well highlight how little time you intentionally spend with the Word. So, as we begin to contemplate the great gift of the Spirit and how the account of Pentecost might illuminate our understanding of what the Apostles actually experienced I suggest a biblical game of chance might be an exciting way to re engage with the Bible.

The Bible is such a wonderful collection of books. Created over many thousands of years it records the Judeo-Christian tradition through the inspired revelation of God’s relationship with humanity. There is so much to explore with a literal infinite number of truths within the covers of this sacred text. Much of what we encounter is easy to understand on the surface, but it’s beneath this level that the fullness of God’s message is found. It is also true to note that some sections of the Bible may seem impenetrable and unclear without further information to offer context. I invite you to explore these points with me through the following exercise.

The first step is to turn to a random page in the Bible or if you are even more adventurous search for a random Bible reading generator on the internet. Read the text and consider what God is offering you.
For example the verse John 7:37 was offered when I used Dailyverses.net’s random verse generator. The verse is:

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me”.

On the surface the verse is obviously part of a larger reading. But from an initial reading the key phrase of Jesus, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me”, stands out. To more fully understand this the reading as a whole needs to be considered which is in this case John 7:37-39:

“On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

Now there is clarity. The reading is of the recurring theme of living water in John’s Gospel. The verse in context clarifies that rather than simply being thirsty those who come to Jesus can drink and from this life giving water and this water will flow from them to others. Jesus and the hearts of those who believe are a well that nourishes and sustains those who encounter both Jesus and disciples such as us.

The next question to contemplate is, What exactly is God revealing to me? In this case I am drawn to the concept of a well. A well is seemingly infinite. Even if the well is run dry by the next day it is full again. A well can provide for the needs of many and is a place of community and encounter. What is revealed is that I, (the reader) am a source of life for those around me. I provide a connection for those whose thirst I quench. Further to this and most importantly the well I draw from is the love of Jesus himself. He has called me, I am thirsty and I have been satisfied. All that I offer others comes from him.

I am now curious. What is this water? What is God asking me to contemplate?
My simple understanding is love. But the love I offer others is not as simple or pure as Jesus. My love is varied. Sometimes listening is the love I offer. Sometimes doing something for someone is the water that flows from my heart. Occasionally the living water I offer is a constructive observation grounded in empathy and good will. This is my answer. Yours may be a little different, but that is the way God works – through us and our experiences, and abilities.

Finally, contemplate the random nature of the verse selected and consider how random it may actually be. Coincidences are events that have no apparent connection. God does not leave anything to chance. This is not a fundamentalist understanding, it's a simple fact that is marvellous and quantifiable.
The example above is evidence of this fact. Review with me the final verse of the reading:

“…he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

If you go back to the beginning of this article you will notice I spoke of Pentecost and the Easter ‘narrative’ and how sometimes we know the story so well we don’t go to the source and encounter these events as recorded in the Bible. The connection is clear and profound. Jesus offers those who are thirsty living water, this water poured from his side when he was pierced with a spear on the cross (John 19:34) but in the reading ‘we’ have not received the Spirit as Jesus has not yet been glorified. On 26 May 2022 he will be. That is the day we celebrate his ascension and on 5 June 2022 we will celebrate the great gift of the Spirit at Pentecost. I am writing this piece on 10 May 2022. The reading is perfect and perfectly timed to support the theme noted in the introduction.

A perfectly placed reading, an introduction that was written before a verse was randomly selected, a profound insight, no coincidence involved; God has a plan for each of us. Try it for yourself. What page do you land on? What reading is presented and what is the perfectly timed message God wants you to ‘hear’? Be adventurous and test God. Even if you aren’t able to fully realise the depth of what is offered, encountering the Word will rest in your heart and the truth being offered will become clear as the Spirit moves!

What an exciting way to meet God each day. Give it a go!

Yours in Christ,

Brendan Nicholls

Liturgy Coordinator