Daily Devotion 01 December 2020

Create a peaceful space to pause, and allow yourself to feel God’s presence alongside you, as near to you as your own breath. In following the reflection below, as a church we will draw closer to God and to one another as we grow in faith and deepen our sense of belonging to God.

Matthew 3:1-3 The Proclamation of John the Baptist

1 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2 ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 3 This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, ‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”’

John the Baptist (JB) prepared the way for his cousin Jesus to impact people’s lives. Looking back, I guess that all of us have had a JB figure in our lives – someone whose example has influenced and shaped our lives. Just like JB, that person may well have ‘prepared the way’ for the Lord to touch our lives.

Let me tell you about Harry Bailey (HB), a layman and preacher in both the Congregationalist and Methodist churches. He became a kind of JB figure for four of us hanging on to the church by our finger tips, asking all the questions about faith and organised religion that young people ask. How come? Well, like JB:

He lived simply. He walked everywhere and had no interest in material possessions. He was an ‘alternative’ character, somewhat eccentric, sleeping outside on his balcony from spring to autumn, weather permitting. He wore shorts (not camel hair!) as often as possible, even when preaching. He was a forward thinker and an ecumenical bridge-builder, impatient for Christian unity in action. He was an early visitor to Taizé in France, correctly predicting that this monastic community would evolve to have a significant impact on many nationalities. He also introduced us to different styles of Christian worship. He was a prophet. He empathised with Quaker philosophy and was a conscientious objector to warfare. This and other justice and peace issues meant that he was not always popular. He certainly knew how to shake the foundations of the status quo.

He opened our minds to new frontiers of understanding. We would talk as we walked the Suffolk footpaths. Politics, current affairs, religious matters, sport, television and much more were mulled over. He introduced me to the writings of Gandhi, the Buddha and the work of inner-city ministers working in East Haarlem, New York. Christian Aid was close to his heart. His generosity and compassion drew out the best in us (knowing that I played tennis he gave me a ticket for Centre Court at Wimbledon).

Like JB, HB pointed us in the direction of Jesus, of whom he was a true disciple. He prepared each of us to gradually walk the way of the Lord and we all ended up serving the Church in different ways. Some readers may remember one of us four, the late Godfrey Tillett, whose lifetime vocation was working for NCH Action for Children. I suggest that we can all be JB figures in small but significant ways to those with whom we come into contact.

Prayer:

For those who for us have exemplified Jesus, we give thanks:
For those who look to us may they see something of Our Lord. Amen.

Address © 2020 Gordon Harrison.
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