When I tell the congregation that Jesus is alive, I always warn them that he is not to be considered as just another person in their lives: he is a presence in and through other persons, in and through events, in and through other living things, in and through themselves, their bodies, souls and spirits. But if so, how can he be recognised? Does he/she speak, and if so, how can Jesus’ voice be distinguished from the voice of self-deception or indeed, from the voice of the devil? And of course, if we can be theological for a minute, is Jesus’ communication different from that of God the Father, or God the Spirit?
I guess I could try answering these questions rationally and theologically but instead I’m going to propose answers by recording my own conversations with Jesus.
“So here I am, Jesus, seated in my room, which looks out over the village of Monifieth, where I live with Janet my wife, holding on my lap my iPad, which is my usual writing implement. For days the sun has been shining, often from a clear sky, making the temperature almost too warm, although today there is more cloud, more wind, giving a more normal, Scottish, feel to the weather.
We’re lucky, I guess. We’ve paid for our house, we both have modest pensions and some savings ready to pay for whatever age-care either of us may need. We both look back to our childhood and youth in a nation ruled by socialist principles and institutions, recognising that much is now changed and not for the better, as a result of widespread agreement in society that capitalism is the only way. “
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Who are you?”
“You could think of me as the voice of your imagination, or more simply, as Jesus.”
“Can you see into my mind, so that you know what I’m thinking? Like that terrible hymn I learned in Sunday School….‘ Not a look or word or thought, but God knows it all.’ God the celestial spy.
“If I’m a figment of your imagination, then of course I have access to your mind. But if I’m Jesus, then no, I do not invade your privacy, but wait to be invited to come in. But I should remind you, that you have often invited me in, over many years, many churches, houses, joys, sorrows and struggles, so that I can say with some truth that I know your heart.“
“‘ Mortals only see appearances but the Lord sees the heart’” So that’s nice and biblical, eh? That’s how you persuade me you’re real, rather than an invention of my mind. Well, OK, seeing you claim acquaintance with my mind, what am I thinking about now?”
“Probably, as you sit at your desk, your eye has caught sight of the photo of your late daughter, which you have magnified and pinned to the wall. There she stands full of life and health on top of a small hill overlooking the River Tay. She brings you joy and grief. You have shared this with me many times.”
“Yes, yes, I shared it with anger, do you hear, anger. And you told me she was with God, as if that helps. She’s not with me, that’s the point! If you’re a saviour, why didn’t you save her from the addiction that killed her? Then she’d still be here, with me!”
“I tried, and failed.”
“What use are you then?”
“What gave you the idea that I could be of use? As if I was a life-improving gadget like your iPad only better? Have you forgotten who I am? You know my story.”
“All right, all right Mr Crucified, I don’t need to see your wounds, it’s just you opened one of mine when you mentioned my daughter, Eleanor. No shit now, will I really see her again?”
“ Yes. You will see her. But she will not be yours. And you will not be hers. In heaven there is neither marriage nor families, as I once taught.”
“Even your good news is hard. Maybe that’s why I’m tempted to think you’re real: you’re not what I want.”
“Does that mean you’re going to keep talking with me? And if course you’re putting this material in a blog, shouldn’t you ask my permission as one of the participants?”
“I’d never thought of that. So, do you give your permission? You do? Thanks very much. And yes, I hope to continue this dialogue.”