The desire for meaning
While the story of Jesus has been there in the background, it was never anything more to me than a story. I guess that’s not altogether surprising as the daughter of an agnostic and an atheist.
When I think about it, the story of Christ has been a faint thread running through my youth.
I was so excited when I first heard the story of the Nativity when I was about five or six at primary school. I remember how much it captured my imagination. Whenever I saw the first star in the night sky, it was
star. I’d make my friends act out the story with me in the playground.
When I was a little older I got to appear in the school Nativity Play, although I was sorely disappointed not to get the part of Mary as I was too tall, apparently. "Mary can’t be taller than Joseph," I was told and I had to be Angel Gabriel instead. I was not impressed. I knew Gabriel was male.
I went on to study drama at Bristol University. In my first year, I finally got to play the part of Mary in
as part of a production of pageants from the Wakefield medieval mystery plays. We performed it as a scene from
. The intimacy of the drama between Mary and Joseph when she first reveals to him she is pregnant despite never having lain with him read like something straight out of a soap opera to us budding young thespians.
But while the story of Jesus has been there in the background, it was never anything more to me than a story. I guess that’s not altogether surprising as the daughter of an agnostic and an atheist.
That’s quite a hard thing for me to write as the communications officer for the Diocese of Bristol. Surely the person with the task of broadcasting the message should believe the message?
I do believe there must be a God. However I have no idea what I really mean by that. Given who I work for, I have thought about this quite a lot. All I know is there has to be something ‘more’. I feel it. There is something bigger that connects us all as human beings.
But I find it almost impossible to align any ‘feeling’ of God with any of the definitions out there.
After attending Christian primary schools in the Midlands and then the North East, I moved to a comprehensive in East London for my secondary years, where pretty much every religion under the sun was represented. None of these ever attracted or appealed to me, and being part of a faith group seemed to represent distinctions and divisions to me, rather than that sense of connectedness I could feel inside.
I believe too in Jesus; as Jesus the man. What I can't get my head around though is Jesus the Son of God, God incarnate. As Bishop Lee told me when I first met him, to be a Christian you need to believe fully in the concept of the Resurrection, the Holy Trinity. You can’t simply believe Jesus was a decent bloke who did some good things.
Why am I sharing this with you? It’s not really a story of faith, after all. And that’s what 10,000 Voices is all about. This is more a story of a lack of faith.
Well, I guess it’s because how I feel seems to be how so many of my contemporaries feel. I’ve talked about this with friends and the same themes tend to come up again and again. A feeling that there’s something more. A desire for meaning. A sense of connectedness. A belief in God yet an inability to make the jump to believing that God ever walked this earth as Jesus.
If you are a Christian reading this, then I suppose my question for you is, how do you share the ‘Good News’ with people who have not been brought up in the Christian tradition, who have seldom attended church, or for whom Christ is a man in a story book? These are people with big questions about life, who are searching for meaning, desperate for their life to have more significance than being the lucky end result of evolution.
How do you help people make that jump? Is it possible?
The other reason I ask is because at Diocesan Synod back in February, the Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Revd Dr Michael Lloyd, gave a really interesting (and at times very funny) talk on why he has confidence in the mission of the Church.
“…What we have to give is what people crave,” he told us, “because the Christian gospel meshes so intricately with human need. The doctrine of the Trinity feeds the tap roots of our beings. And our mission is to love them, so as to reflect God’s love to them. Our mission is so to love them that they find it easier to believe in God’s love for them.
“But our mission is also to tell them of the nature of Being, of the surd of Love at the heart of reality. If we do not tell them of the triune nature of God, we leave them to starve off the scraps. I am confident about our mission because I know that only the doctrine of the Trinity can meet the desperate need for love in the human heart.”
A phrase Michael used throughout his address was, “And people need to know that.” But the question I kept asking in my head throughout was, “How?” How do you help people know that - people who might be searching for meaning but are so shut off from formal church and religion?
Talking to Christians, I get the impression that believing in the Resurrection of Christ and the Holy Trinity is something you just do. It’s a belief you come to yourself. You just feel and know it to be so.
Do you feel it? Is that how it is for you?
I wish I could feel it. Life would be so much easier. Or would it?
Ness is Communications Officer for the Diocese of Bristol
/ Contemplate today
Christ’s friends and followers thought he was gone forever. Their faith was gone. How do you imagine they tried to make sense of this?
Do mysteries like the Resurrection work better for you as things to try and understand rationally or things to contemplate intuitively?
If faith is a feeling too far away, does it stop God being close? If faith is your firm conviction, does it automatically make a difference?
/ Meditate today
“Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.”
From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday
The need for love, fear of meaning and the defeat of death: