When I speak or write the name Jesus, who or what do I mean?

Well, for a start, I can say what I don’t mean.

1. I don’t mean some kind of supernatural person who appears to me. I know from the Bible and some contemporary sources, that some people say they have experienced this, but I interpret these as sudden and dramatic realisations of truth, if they are sincere, and as duplicitous stories designed to gain credit with vulnerable people, if they are not. I do not think that Jesus manifests himself as a quasi physical presence. Luke, the author of Acts, wrote up Paul’s conversion as a dramatic incident in which he was thrown to the ground and heard Jesus speaking. But when Paul describes the same conversion, he uses the phrase, “ it pleased God to reveal his son in me.”

2. I don’t believe in a Jesus who hovers invisibly in churches or in the houses of believers. Most descriptions of him doing so are related to worship in which the language is picturesque and persuasive, designed to enhance the faith of the participants. St.Paul wrote of the assembly of believers as the “body of messiah” certainly as an image of how the assembly should function, each member honouring the abilities of the others, but also as an image of the presence of Jesus is each member and in the whole assembly. But all of that is a statement about an embodied Jesus.

3. I don’t believe in a Jesus who in his historical ministry, walked on the water and raised the dead. The gospel writers to greater or lesser degrees wanted to depict Jesus as the presence of God on earth, and miracles are a way of doing so. This is not to say, that Jesus was not a healer, but rather that he was not a person through whom God channelled supernatural power into the world.

4. I do not believe in a Jesus whose tomb was empty because his body had taken off like a rocket into another dimension. I mean that the bones of Jesus are in Palestine, as my late daughter’s ashes are in Scotland, while I believe that both of them are resurrected.

5. In other words, I do not believe that there is or was anything about Jesus that contradicts the scientific picture of the universe, although he adds to it. The great truth of Christian faith is that the definitive presence of God in the world is precisely in a human person, living in a specific time and place, subject to all the limitations of human beings including death.

There are reasons why the church has preserved the ways of thinking about Jesus which I have rejected:

1. Mumbo-jumbo

2. The church wants to be seen as a dispenser of miracle or of miraculous truth.

3. The church wants to preserve a theology of God’s generosity in which the whole event of Jesus is seen, not as the life of a religious genius or communal superhero, but as a gift of God to the world. The language of Jesus being “sent by God” of his “coming down” into the world, describes spiritual rather than physical realities. Some clumsy elements in the Bible, such as the virgin birth of Jesus, or his ascension into heaven, encourage a physical interpretation, but we have stay true to our ordinary knowledge that God doesn’t get virgins pregnant, and bodies don’t zoom off into the stratosphere. But in this case, it seems to me that the conviction of God’s generosity is essential to our faith, and that the language of Jesus’ coming down from God cannot be ignored. It needs interpretation, but it should not be dismissed.

The only brief way of pointing to my interpretation of this language is the statement that we always live and move and have our being in God who is love. The great teachers and prophets of humanity, and supremely Jesus, knew this truth, that contrary to atheism God is real, that contrary to religion we do not have to seek God, for God is here, where we are, and God’s love is available to all. We need to “change our hearts”, “waken up” to the goodness that can be done to us and by us, now.

It’s not easy to believe that and to put our trust in it. The story of Jesus, ending as it does in torture, death and failure demonstrates that truth, but still offers the joyful news that Jesus is alive in God and that God is alive in him.

The preceding two paragraphs are compressed and need to be unpacked, which I hope to do in this series of blogs.

It’s six months since my daughter died, during which these blogs have often been about her. I felt that these meditations were not private, but belonged in the community of faithful and questioning people. Now I am editing them, with some additions into a form that might be suitable for publication.

So once again I’m making a new start with this blog. It was originally intended to show that Jesus was just as “extreme” towards British or American values as any jihadist, only more fruitfully.

I think that has stayed with me. Most of my certainties about God are under question, as I continue to mourn and struggle to find any acceptable way of thinking about God. I want to be faithful to this questioning, which for the moment will continue privately.

On the other hand, I am fairly sure what I know about Jesus.

1. Jesus is against Trump, Putin and Orban. Why these, rather than Boris, Xi, Bolsonaro, Modi and the rest? Because in their different ways they have tried – and partially succeeded – in co-opting “Jesus” to their cause. Putin via his nauseating patronage of the Orthodox Church, Orban by his explicit attempt to create a Christian Hungary, and Trump with his encouragement of right-wing Christianity as his key supporters in the USA. Their use of Jesus is public, as is their corruption of branches of the Christian Church. Jesus did not support any of the Jewish political groups of his time, but was public about the demands of The Messiah King, that nations would be judged by what they did or failed to do, for the hungry and thirsty, for the stranger, for the sick, for the prisoners, for the destitute. This is stated quite clearly, that what they do or fail to do for these least important of Jesus brothers and sisters will be taken personally by The King, so much so that those who fail this test, regardless of their faith, will have their asses fried along with Satan and his troops. Amen. So listen up, Donald, Vladimir and Viktor, get your fireproof boxers ready, the Lord is waiting. But at least you won’t be alone, in the company of the millions of “Christians” who have supported you.

2. Of course all applies to every nation and person and those who think they meet the meet the King’s requirement, like me, should look at it pretty carefully, and ask what what we have actually done as opposed to what we have said. Jesus offers no forgiveness for those who choose to remain in sin. For all his reputation as a merciful saviour, all the most terrible judgements on those who pretend to have faith, come from him: “Not those who say Lord, Lord, but those who do the will of my father.” Jesus was not very religious, and was utterly unimpressed by piety.

3. As I say, I am not very sure about God at present, and therefore not too sure about the meaning of Jesus’ threats: just who will tend those toasty fires is a mystery. Another mystery is exactly how such threats match up with Jesus’ command to love enemies, and indeed his own prayer for the forgiveness of his crucifiers. I guess it’s obvious: there cannot be forgiveness of those who don’t want it. “The Reign of God has arrived; change your hearts; and trust in the joyful message.” Those who recognise the King and change their hearts, are invited to trust the joyful message of forgiveness, love and transformation. But for those who are blind to King Jesus, and who refuse to change, how can their be any forgiveness? God’s love is offered but they have rejected it. The offer is for all, but the enjoyment of God’s love is for those who accept it, even if they have been enemies of God and his children. In a word, this is to say that Jesus offered only love. He did not use any kind of force to make people go his way, but only tried to persuade them by word and action. Love is terrible because it leaves the decision with the beloved person.

4. But clearly enough, Jesus would tell me that I have to love Donald and the rest. Probably this rules out any glee about Jesus’ judgement upon them. So if I want to applaud while their fat sizzles, I cannot claim to belong to Jesus. Now that’s a bit awkward. And it doesn’t just apply to my enemies’ ultimate fate; it has to start now. “Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors”. Could I get off with praying that their asses get fried? Probably not. The command also means that in a political area polluted with all forms of bad- mouthing, God’s people should speak peacefully but definitely in the name of the real Jesus.

5. All this sounds a bit extreme to me.

Our daughter Eleanor died 21/04/ 2020


You turned to me from looking at the summit view:

In a cloudless sky the sun without mercy

Seized in its light the sharp mountains

The dusty plain and the far sea.

We set out serenaded by cowbells

Eased ourselves above the flowers and bushes

Struggled over bare rock ridges

With sheer slabs where I needed your shooshes

To let you make your own away to the top.

I was elated, but in your smile was knowledge

That this was as good as it would get, you were unwell

And wouldn’t recover no matter the courage

With which you’d face going down. You were asking

Me to recognise this truth and hold it

In my heart, and not to hurt you with false hope.

Suddenly I was aware how cold it

Gets up there and failed your honesty thinking,

“I want to keep you as you are.”

But now at last I come to say goodbye

Most near, most dear, most loved, and most far.

Our daughter Eleanor died 21/04/ 2020

Me: No sooner have you told me that you were inaccessible than you reveal yourself in events far and near…..

E+: We want you to listen to us…

M: And who are you?

E+: We are what Eleanor and others have become, a shared life which you cannot conceive.

M: Eleanor is no more?

E+: Not at all. She is alive forever as part of us.

M: But she can’t speak?

E+: She will not speak as if this change had not happened. We are also God, sharing God’s splendour and suffering. Utterly remote from the world we are part of God’s love for it and presence in it. And in you.

M: In me?

E+: Yes. You are aware of this but mistake it as appearances of your daughter. The truth is stranger than you imagine. Your mind is so attuned to her that you are quick to spot any presence that includes her, and you address only her. But we are more than her and she is more than her former self.

M: And her precious human memory of moments and days in this world, that’s gone?

E+: I am more than my former self, not less, so of course I can remember all we shared in that life. And I can use your language of I and you when I speak, although I also know a better one. As I kept reminding you, all that has passed between us since I died is touched by your imagination, which is vivid but inadequate. There’s truth in what you’ve written, but in a disguised form. Think of these conversations as parables rather than descriptions.

M: So we’re back to the first question I asked: where will we meet?

E+: When you know us in yourself, in other lives, or in the physical universe, as we share in the work of perfection. These things will happen, but you cannot make them happen, nor can you know more of our lives than that.

M: That’s it?

E+: No, you can hope one day to be with us, when everything will be clear. So move on, get on with life, focus on mum, who has done without all this fussing and just grieved. Do good, work for justice, climb the hills, be grateful, love God.

M: Right! I can hear a tone that encourages me to obey. So I will move on. You were the greatest gift to your mum and me, and the greatest loss. But now I can say goodbye, until I come to you, if that happens.

E+: Or maybe sooner, if we come to you. And don’t waste your time looking for us; but if you do, remember my word to you:

M: What word?

E+: Piss off, Dad.

Our daughter Eleanor died 21/ 04/2020


Forgive and in forgiveness please forget

The times that I neglected you

To focus on the love of God (my version)

And made you ask if I’d rejected you.

Forgive and in forgiveness please forget

My lack of praise for things

Well-done by you, my failure to provide

Encouragement to let your virtues sing.


Forgive and in forgiveness please forget

I did not set a good example

With booze but by my habit made it seem ok

One’s use of it be more than ample.


Forgive and in forgiveness please forget

My sometimes bitter fury

When you fouled up, my lack of sympathy,

My need to be both judge and jury.


Forgive and in forgiveness please remember

My inept love of you, and fear

You might be taken from me, child who was never

And will be never, less than dear.

Eleanor our daughter died 21/04/2020

This is not fake news, it’s my witness and my testimony

My scientific evidence, my affidavit:

When Donald Trump came out of hospital and saluted

Announcing to the nation he was macho-fit

I saw you meet him in the White House hallway

Guide him with your strong black fingers

To a comfortable sofa to get his breath back

Then throw him a disruptive zinger:

“You’ve always been so worried about the size of your willy.”

Yes, it was an elegant black lady

But definitely you, your voice, your wit, your sad

Compassion as you made the

President see himself for once without fear. I was

Applauding you by name, El! El!

Last week, I’d just parked the car in the driveway

When my nose caught the pungent smell

Of the three dogs, one old, one young, one lame

All rescued by the polish woman

Who lives nearby. As I sat on the stone wall

To greet them – I swear this is another true one –

I saw my arms were your arms, open to them

my hands your hands tickling their floppy

Ears, my mind your mind comprehending

Their dogliness. Nothing could stop me

Looking over my shoulder to catch your eye,

Breaking the spell. And yet I knew my daughter

As certainly as from the shore I know

The presence of a porpoise in the water

By its back. I cannot make this happen,

Nor anticipate it in the flow

Of time, but am grateful and acknowledge

A quiet way of saying hello.

Our daughter Eleanor died on 21/04/ 2020


There’s still a can of diet coke in the fridge which you must have put there. I notice it every time I open the fridge, reminding me of your absence, and, also however, of your presence. I haven’t been able to throw it out, because it’s a remnant, an enduring fragment, of you.

– by the way, I’m assuming you’re not wanting to speak, but if you do, just interrupt me. I’ll be delighted –

Just this morning I was tidying a shelf in the cupboard where I keep my climbing gear, and a newish glove fell down. When I picked it up I recognised it as your Christmas present to me, last year. It’s a proper climbing glove marketed by Rab, the well-known outdoor clothing firm. It is of course, made in China. But I noticed another more surprising fact about it: it contains “non-textile parts of animal origin”. I guess you didn’t notice this, as you normally worked very hard to exclude any clothing that used animals. Or maybe you thought it was OK for me because I’m more careless, although I agree with your principle?

In any case I probably won’t use them much as they share with many other smart gloves the infuriating fault that when wet you can’t get your hands out of the glove without getting the lining as well. If this happens on a mountain, in the cold, it can be dangerous as well as fiddly. But they are of course a remnant of you, a reminder of the care you took over all sorts of occasions, festivals, birthdays, anniversaries, life-events, and not just for family but for friends as well. You spent time, and money of which you had little, trying to make your gifts appropriate and intimate. To this end also, you bought greeting cards whenever you could, especially ones that chimed with your own indecorous humour. I’m sure that years into the future I and many others will still be coming across the lively tokens of your love.

I think these gifts mattered to you because the relationships mattered, but due to your illness you worried that you might not have been able to maintain the best courtesies of friendship. Maybe you’d been out of touch, hadn’t been fit to keep an appointment, not replied to an email. You wanted therefore to re-assure your dear ones that you did value them. Perhaps also you wanted them/us to reassure you that you were valued. I hope we all did so.

As you see, I’m still talking to you, rather than about you. I hope that wherever you are, this is not noted to your discredit. “Well, Eleanor Jane, some of your earthlings are still mumbling away as if you’re in the next room. Primitive, really.”

So, honest, yes, I know there’s no social medium between me and you, but I still trust that in the unity of the One Love, it is possible to give and receive. Or is that wishful thinking?