One way of engaging with Scripture is to look into the Bible for characters with whom, for whatever reason, we seem to identify.
In the Gospel stories I find a real point of touch with Andrew (my name!), Nicodemus and, Mary. They act as theological magnets. They draw me into a much larger narrative; maybe this is one of the roles assigned to the ‘communion of saints?’
If we start with the blessed Andrew we find that there is not much material to work with, and this in itself is food for thought .In the synoptic Gospels Andrew is presented solely as Peter’s sidekick – his biological brother. John’s gospel ‘bigs’ Andrew up! John only gives us two insights into Andrew, but what insights they are.
In John Chapter 1 verse 4 Andrew makes Jesus wait until he has found his brother Peter, and persuaded him to become a disciple. In the second ‘our hero’ is the disciple who naively believes that Jesus can make something out of a few scraps of fish and a couple of loaves of bread (John 6 verse 8)! Andrew seems to be saying to us ‘look what Jesus can do with seemingly insignificant people and things if you just give them to him for blessing?’ Can we rise to Andrew’s challenge?
Nicodemus might stand as a motif for our times. The intellectual, refined, establishment, public, figure comes to Jesus under the cover of darkness. It is easy to criticise Nicodemus, but perhaps the important point is that Jesus provides the space that allows Nicodemus to approach him ‘under the cover of darkness,’ (John 3 verse 2). Do we – should we- provide potential Nicodemus’ with the cover of darkness?
Finally Mary, whose birth the Church of England commemorates today. I think in Protestant circles there is a tendency to downplay Mary,to see her merely as the means and not as a person with whom we can identify, or a teacher in her own right. David O’Malley (a Salesian Priest) in Prayers to End the Day provides three ways through which we can identify with, and learn from, Mary.
For those who, in sadness, feel deserted by God – May they find hope through Mary at the foot of the cross.
For those who cannot cope with change – May they find strength in the confusion of Mary at the Annunciation.
For those who have come close to death – May Mary who saw her Son die, give them hope of Resurrection.
I am not suggesting we worship Mary but, I do think we should identify with her and her journey, finding hope in it and learning to trust in Him through it.
One final thought: Mary’s most basic job was to give birth to the Living God, so is ours. Mary is not simply the means, she is the blessed reminder of our most important job as Christians; to give birth to Jesus in this generation.