Another breakfast chat with Jeff. This time we were chewing over John 6 and Jesus’ teaching on the Bread of Life and how his disciples are to feed on him … flesh and blood! This can be hard for us to digest but think what it must have been like for those first followers who only knew the Mosaic covenant, the Manna and a unitarian God …
Jeff’s poem describes how one of those who had to leave Jesus (v66) might have regretfully come to his decision …
It was there I reached the line
Beyond which I could not follow
All my invested time
Misplaced. Left paddling in the shallows
At the Jordan’s shore:
Only thus far could I go –
Deeps I could not dare to venture,
Steeps I would not climb
With barest hints and mysteries,
And no surefootedness. This talk
Of eating flesh and drinking blood –
‘Does this offend?’ he said.
Ironically, I stayed
Past all the heckling, the taunts of cynics,
Listened, agonised and weighed
Each word, praying for clarity –
‘The Spirit is what really counts,’
He said. I heard the call to wade
Out further, and held back.
The fervour of a curious follower alone
No longer quite sufficient
For the level and the quality of mission
He’s suggesting is ahead.
It is too much. It is uncertain
And there are too many unsubstantiated
Variables. Back, then, to sound dry land,
Letting drop the travel pack to solid earth,
Shaking his saltwater words from my hands.
May 2017 Jeff Hankins
My poem is more contemporary and considers that when we decide to ‘leave’ a particular group of believers either to go it alone or set up a new expression which preserves and proclaims some important truth that we feel is at risk we may be acting in a selfish and reactionary way over something less important than maintaining the ‘unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ – in humility, gentleness, peace and love … (Eph 4:3)
Does Jesus ask us, “Do you want to leave (me) too?”
His 12 disciples were far from perfect yet he kept them close … how perfect do we want our ‘fellowship’ to be?
How often we grumble
and argue …
Preferring the comfort of
our own understanding
on points of theology
and literal interpretations
we separate ourselves
from each other;
sometimes in haste,
seldom ‘in love’!
And, as we estrange ourselves
because of doubt,
or fear, or arrogance,
we move a little further
from the Truth we think
we are preserving.
“You don’t want to leave too, do you?”
He knows our thoughts and our hearts.
He knows who are his
and who will deny or betray.
And so, as his chosen,
through all our failures and deficiencies;
our rumourings and grumblings;
our desperate divisions and
he remains …
in us and with us,
to the end of all things
May 2017 Graham Oakes