The Gilbertine Benefice

Dear Friends,

Last summer the family and I had a brief holiday during which we visited Longleat Safari Park and tackled the huge hedge maze located there. It is the biggest in Britain, made up of over 16,000 English yew trees, and has a raised viewing platform at the very heart of the maze that I was determined to climb on, certainly before my wife and kids! We all thought it would be easy, but of course the people who designed the maze knew we would probably think that and so they no doubt constructed it to constantly lure the unwary down into its many dead ends. Even when you thought you were taking the right path, the most direct or the obvious route to get to the centre. Having found myself in what looked like the same dead end for the umpteenth time I finally gave in and took out my mobile phone. I had 'cheated' used it to photograph the map of the maze located at the entrance - just in case I needed it. Once I had managed to work out where I was, I was finally able to find the correct path to the centre.

A former Bishop of Durham, suggests many of Jesus’ stories and parables are also just like mazes, intended to challenge his listeners to work out for themselves where they are and how to get to the heart of the thing that truly matters; the kingdom of God. Jesus knew that people easily get lost and lured into dead ends as they went through life, but his teachings and parables provided a map. If heard and understood properly, these parables would help them to see where they were and the right direction they needed to take to obtain the fullness of life and individual flourishing promised by God. Despite this, many people did not listen to Jesus, during his earthly ministry. In the same way, many people today choose not to accept Jesus’ teaching; even those who profess to being Christians frequently choose to adopt it in their lives only superficially, and when it suits them and the lifestyle they wish to pursue.

Ask yourself the question: where are you in the maze right now? Have you taken, or are you in danger of taking, the wrong route? Do you constantly find yourself in a dead end or do you even feel completely lost? Jesus offered a map to help those who wanted to take the right path, the one and only true direction. Finding this map is not without difficulty though; it will take more than just casual investment. It will take time and, sometimes, hard work. A cursory and occasional glance at the Bible and rare visit to church are probably not enough. We need to invest care and thought into the task of hearing what Jesus had to say. Only then might we start to understand how it can apply to our lives and be our guide that ensures we remain on the right path to the centre, where we can truly flourish.

Every blessing                                                                            Neil