The week in focus
From January 2021, we're offering three new resources, published each Thursday - helping you connect the Bible passages with what's happening in the world right now.
In touch - Find out for yourself
Every faith-life requires discovering truth for oneself (1 Samuel 3.4; John 3.48-49).
My wife and I left the USA, where we had lived and worked for three-and-a-half years, in great measure because of the mistrust and outright disbelief – by nearly half the population – in the science behind the Covid-19 pandemic and the efficacy of the vaccines.
Learning to learn is important for all of us in this life. Many educators and employers fear a ‘knowledge gap’ for young people due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
We can’t let the recent events in the US pass without noting the complete disregard for truth, democracy or law and order in a large proportion of the population. Take your pick:
- We live in a time when knowledge—real knowledge—is doubted. Our English word ‘science ‘comes to us from the Latin, scientia, which simply means ‘knowledge’ or ‘knowing’. Yet, can you think of another time in your life when even the wildest conspiracy theories were taken as ‘fact’ by millions of people? The USA election results have been counted again and again, but Trump and his followers choose to believe otherwise.
- One of the most pernicious aspects of modern Western thought is the belief that ‘one opinion is as good as another.’ John Henry Newman once wrote: ‘We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe.’ His words could have been written for us today.
- Vaccines are like the ‘good news’ which Philip wanted Nathanael to hear and receive. Yet Nathanael was cynical about Jesus (John 3.46): ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’. But Philip persisted: ‘Come and see’. In other words, ‘Find out for yourself’ or ‘Check the facts.’ The new Covid-19 vaccines are literally life-saving for millions; yet millions of other people are against the vaccines – including the leaders of Brazil and the USA. Apart from suffering from their willed ignorance, how can people be convinced to accept what is actually for their benefit – spiritually as well as physically?
Questions for discussion
- With regard to 1 Samuel, have you ever been recognised by someone in the midst of a crowd or somewhere other than where you live or work? How does it feel to be identified or known in that way?
- How much credence do we place in stories that appear on the internet – especially the stories that fuel our emotions? How often do we fact-check on Snopes or other fact-check sites? If we don’t, why not? And if we do check facts, why?
- How have you recognised Jesus’ call in your life? Was it sudden or gradual? What has changed as a result?
Revd Dr Jack Lawson is a freelance writer and author of three novels: Doing Time, No Good Deed and Criminal Justice. For more information visit Jack’s website.
It was announced on Wednesday 13 January that perhaps this year’s GCSE and A Level exams haven’t been cancelled after all. Instead, there might be mini exams in some or all of the subjects.
If you’re in year 11 or 13 this is a lot to take in i.e. trying to work out what it means for you to miss your exams, and now having to think about what to revise and how that will affect your final grades. Even if you’re not in an exam year, things are still changing rapidly. How does this make you feel? How do you react to uncertainty?
What is interesting about all the change we are experiencing is that we are probably all reacting in different ways. For some of us the situation is making us anxious; others may quite like being at home; some may be relieved that the exams were cancelled and are now worried about the proposed mini-exams; others may be pleased about the mini-exams, preferring to have the option to show what they know in an end-of-year test than being assessed across lots of pieces of work.
The passage this week (John 1. 43-51) also shows some very different reactions to a situation of change. Jesus asks Nathanael and Philip to follow him, to stop leading their old lives and to have a new life as his disciples. Jesus’ offer means great change and uncertainty. Philip reacts with great excitement. He seems to embrace the change offered and rushes off to find Nathanael to invite him to join the adventure. But Nathanael is much more cautious, suspicious even. Nathanael doesn’t jump for joy, rather he quizzes Jesus on who he is and what’s going on. The same situation plays out very differently. But eventually Philip and Nathanael both become followers of Jesus. Both, though very different, are part of God’s plan.
Whatever you are feeling, however you are reacting, you are part of God’s big plan. God doesn’t need one type of person, but all sorts of people with different emotions who can live and learn together. Talk to your friends about how they feel. Think about how you are different from your friends and thank God for this. Accept the invitation to be part of God’s plan – however you are feeling.
Fiona Dorman taught English in secondary school for 20 years and is currently working as Bristol Cathedral education officer and as an educational consultant.
ROOTS publishes weekly lectionary-based worship and learning resources online and in two magazines. FIND OUT MORE.