Soul Talk Advent Series 2019: 'Words to Live a Life by'
Guest Blogger: Richard Cornfield
I went to a fancy management course a few years back. One of the best bits about this course was that I discovered the three most important things for a person to know as they engage with the world. Apparently, people are at their best when they know their purpose, their identity and understand their values or beliefs. Summed up as: What am I born for? Who am I? What do I believe? These are the key questions for life, the universe and everything.
I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I went to an inspirational morning with Richard Fraser the Minister of Grey Friars Kirk (of Grey Friars Bobby fame) in Edinburgh. Richard was was being interviewed by John Sturrock as part of the Claverhouse Conversations that he hosts. In the interview, Richard spoke about ministry to people on the edges of society and then he linked this into how Jesus operated. In doing this, unbeknownst to Richard, he took me back to that fancy room I did the course in.
Richard, simply, pointed out that when Jesus was with people on the edges, he asked them questions. For example:
To the woman at the well, he surprisingly and radically asked, "Can you give me a drink?"
There are so many things are gong on in that question for me to give a full lowdown, but one thing that is happening is, that in that question, Jesus is giving the woman a purpose. He is demonstrating that they are inter dependent to each other; he needs something from her. This is what she was born for. So much so, an hour or so later, full of joy she was encouraging all her friends to come and meet with him. She enabled them to discover the transformation of the one who knows everything about us and for whom we were born.
To the naked, mentally tortured man in the graveyard, chained to the gravestones, Jesus asked, "What’s your name?" The man replied, "Legion." In other words, he called himself by the name of his disease. Just as many of us do, ‘I’m depressed’, ‘I’m homeless’, 'I'm on benefits,' 'I'm poorly,' ‘I’m grieving’, ‘I’m stressed’. Titles that do not sum up the essence of who we are. For that man, Jesus expelled Legion and gave him his real identity. He banished the years of torture and enabled shalom. Legion was the imposter, the man was free to use his real name.
To Blind Bartimaeus Jesus asked, "what do you want me to do for you?". In faith, Bartimaeus replied, "I want to see." And amazingly he discovered the joy of healing. Years of 'blindness' vanished. In doing this, Jesus helped Bartimaeus, to believe and have faith.
Three simple questions meeting the three greatest needs of all people. Listening to Richard gave me a powerful moment which is travelling with me right into Advent. As I await and pray yet again, ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’ I do so with renewed vigour listening out for Jesus questions. "Can you give me a drink?" "What's your name?" "What can I do for you?" I'm even asking these questions myself to people I'm meeting up with.
As I ask, I see Kirsty glow as she sees her value on a team walking alongside those who find themselves without a home, when for years she was isolated and on her own. I see Steve weeping because he has been recognised and valued, when for years he felt he was the invisible man. I see Phil's faith literally grow in front of my eyes as he's given permission to ask questions he thought he wasn't allowed to ask. These questions of Jesus are such a beautiful, life-changing, gift.
So, we wait for the Jesus who gave us these beautiful questions. Maybe, as we wait, in the stillness, ask yourself, what question is Jesus asking me?
Amen, come Lord Jesus
Richard Cornfield is the Pioneer Priest of Mustard Seed Edinburgh a church with a longing to walk alongside those who are dealing with the realities of poverty and homelessness. Along with his wife, Jenny ,he also leads Soul Food Edinburgh.