Every month I take an assembly with this very wise older Vicar and we normally end up having a coffee afterwards where he normally has at least one profound nugget!
A couple of weeks ago he used the phrase “there are just some days when I need to just gaze on Jesus a bit more!” This phrase has been resonating with me for a couple of weeks.
For me one of the biggest questions is “why do I, do the things I do?” -and by that I mean the vocation stuff (which even though I’m not currently vicaring in the way I used to, still feels as strong as ever, perhaps stronger although expressed in a different way at the moment!).
Why do I do what I do? Is a question that has lots of answers… at times I might have said, “I’m paid”, “I’ve promised”, “I’m not too bad at it”, “no one else will do it”, “other people are expecting it”, “I have a vision and passion for it” all of which are ‘right’ in some senses, but the main reason why I do what I do, is simply because I love Jesus! He is the motivating force for all of the Christian life, he is our raison d’être for it all, yet sometimes like all important things I know I need to be reminded of him, and why I love him!
I love my wife, Allana, and I have promised to “love and cherish and be faithful too” her, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves not just of our promises to, but our love for, someone. Indeed, it is easier to be a better husband the more time I have spent with her and the more I am reminded why I love her!
There is a difference between being “in love” and “feeling in love” which is a distinction we often fail to make as Christians as our discipleship falters when perhaps we don’t ‘feel’ in love with God.
Scripture urges us to “not forsake our first love” -the idea of the first love is the one who has the primary claim on our heart, as we re-discover the beauty of our God, we see the ugliness of the idols that distract us from the real thing! We see the flaws and faults in the counterfeits the world tries to seduce us with! -Interestingly bank Clarks spend lots of time with real money so that they can instantly see a forgery!
We need to keep gazing on Christ to remind us that he is better than everything else the world has to offer! Yet, even so, sometimes our memories fail about his wonder and glory, we end up serving our of a duty and we need to be reminded to gaze afresh to restore our joy.
In the Anglican prayer book there is an interesting phrase in the pre-communion prayer which says about “our duty and our joy” -Cramner (who wrote the prayer book) knows that sometimes we don’t always feel like following Christ, but when we do it anyway that actually expresses a deeper love, love that is a choice, love that is demonstrated in commitment. Love that is more than just a feeling.
Yet, serving from a place of duty is something most of us have probably done at times, although is good, is tiring, and is not the greatest motivator, instead we need to re-discover our love for Christ afresh, anew, again.
When the call feels more duty than joy, perhaps we need to “to return to gaze at Jesus” -sometimes we need to sit and wait and just be with Jesus, sometimes it takes a long and questioning gaze to restore our souls, sometimes a briefest of glimpses can be all we need to restore us.
As I thought of gazing on Christ, the idea is beyond -above- words. As I gaze on Jesus, I am reminded that he gazes back at us. Coming before Christ just as I am, allow him to see me without the masks, the uniforms, the baggage and just standing there as his friend.
At the heart of everything is our relationship with Jesus, his love for us and our love for him, our gaze upon him causes our mixed up and jumbled minds to fall in love afresh with him, and to see from that position of love and surrender, everything else falling into place, and aligning back into the right order.