Following Morning prayer and breakfast, the College of Bishops meeting then breaks down into small groups for Lectio Divina – which is simply a way of engaging everyone in a reading of and reflection on a passage from the Bible. It is always fascinating and surprising to see who focuses on what in the same text. I always see differently because I am compelled to look through someone else’s eyes and listen to their perspective.

This morning’s reading was from John 12 and concluded with Jesus saying something that looks obviously intelligible until you dig into it. The particular bit says this:

“Jesus said to them, The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”

I thought it interesting that Jesus says ‘walk’ and not ‘sit’. Time marches on, day follows night, and darkness has a habit of overtaking us when we simply sit still and enjoy where we are. But, that isn’t the point that really got to me.

What did Jesus mean by inviting us to ‘believe’ in the light. How do you ‘believe’ in the light? Either it is light or it isn’t. How do you not believe in what you can see?

Well, I think this simply fails to understand what is meant by the word ‘believe’.

Jesus’s mission statement summary in Mark 1:14-15 has four elements: (a) ‘The time is fulfilled’ – now is the time when God is among us again; (b) ‘the kingdom of God has come near’ – the presence and rule of God for which you have been praying for centuries is here now; (c) ‘repent’ – if you are to recognise the presence of God among you, you are going to have to change the way you look; (d) ‘believe in the good news’ – now commit yourself body, mind and spirit to what you now see.

Jesus’s audience could only see God’s return evidenced by the expulsion of the Romans and the resolution of their ‘problems’. Jesus asks them to see the presence of God in the midst of their problems, not just when everything is sorted out to their satisfaction. Jesus then says that those who can dare to look differently should now live accordingly. And that is what ‘believing in’ means: commit yourself – body, mind and spirit – to what you now see… which is the transforming presence of Jesus himself, shedding different light on where we are and where we are heading.

Thus, ‘believing’ is not about girding up your loins and summoning up all your credulity. ‘Faith’ is not (as one little girl is said to have said) about ‘believing what you know isn’t true’. It is not about giving intellectual assent to a set of propositions. It is not about pretending to see what we don’t see – on the grounds that we feel we ought to do so. It is about seeing the world as Jesus does – in the light he sheds – and then throwing ourselves into it.

Seen this way, believing has more to do with curiosity and a sense of adventure, and less to do with nailing down all the details. it is the starting point, not the destination.

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