Pause for Thought – a five minute read – 23

John 3 v 1 – 21

One significant aspect of the Coronavirus crisis is the distinct absence of meeting people. At this stage I actually look forward to Thursday night at 8.00pm when I stand on my drive and applaud the NHS along with all my neighbours. I am aware that there is no close contact but we do all wave to each other and give a thumbs up sign which means both, ‘are you all right?’ and ‘yes I’m fine thank you’. I never appreciated how important meeting people actually is; -and that brings me to another point, – my milkman.

The problem is I have not met my milkman for over a year. He used to call on a Wednesday to collect his money and we would have a chat, put the world to right and update on our respective families, but that has all changed. Steve, (the milkman) delivers the milk at 4.00am when we are all asleep; accordingly I do not meet him then. About a year ago the company decided to go down the direct debit route, so he no longer needs to call on a Wednesday.  It may not be earth shattering but it does mean that I can’t say thank you for delivering my milk in snow, rain, hail, Coronavirus and all weather conditions.

So what is so important about meeting people? It stops us from becoming insular, we are naturally gregarious by nature, it’s beneficial to our communication with others, our security and mental health, and lots more. Even for people we don’t like and those who don’t like us it is important for us to meet.

They say that sub consciously we decide if we like someone within the first three minutes of meeting them. I always thought that would be a good way of speeding up job interviews but I’m not convinced that it is true.

When I first met my wife she had long flowing hair that was draped over her shoulders, had heavy make up on her face and was dressed in a Hebrew slave’s tunic. She was actually on stage at the time in a play at her church. The first time we went out I discovered that the long hair was a wig, she never used make up and she was definitely no one’s slave.

Let me digress for a moment and relate to you the occasion of Jean and my first ‘date’. It was arranged for the evening after the play and I was to pick her up from her parent’s house and go out for a meal. Unfortunately I was late finishing work so it was necessary for me to pick Jean up on the way home where I could get changed and then go for a meal.

Now, let me explain; in those days not all builders trucks/vans were supplied with a passenger seat and the one I was driving did not have one. However it did have two bags of cement that substituted for a seat.

I don’t think Jean had a particular problem with the situation, but from the look on her mother’s face as she watched her daughter climb up into builder’s truck onto two bags of cement with a driver dressed in dirty boots, jeans and a donkey jacket, allegedly going out for a meal, didn’t suggest to me that I had achieved a successful first three minutes.   

We did get married, (Jean not her mother) two years later so not all was lost.

Of course as we discussed in a previous Pause for Thought modern technology has helped to reduce the impact of social separation and last Sunday I actually took part in a ‘Zoom’ service in which I delivered a short sermon to a sea of faces on my lap top screen. Not being entirely comfortable with the technology, I sought expert advice in the preceding week from my grandson who walked me through it with the help of my mobile phone (because we couldn’t meet) and on the day it all went well, in fact I enjoyed the whole experience.

I wonder how many references there are in the Bible of Jesus meeting people, that’s something to do on a rainy afternoon instead of day time television, there must be hundreds if not thousands of examples, from individuals to five thousand people and more.

Certainly the three minute theory was correct when Jesus called his disciples, they dropped their nets, left their boats and followed him, and what about Zacchaeus? He met with Jesus and finished up inviting him to his home for a meal.

Only the Jewish Leaders had a problem with meeting Jesus.

Jesus’s meeting with Nicodemus is particularly interesting, (John 3 v 1 – 22). I like to believe that there was a three minute spark between them and that Nicodemus genuinely wanted to learn more of Jesus’s teaching and about the Kingdom of Heaven.

Nicodemus was a well-educated man, a devout Jew and a Pharisee, a Jewish Leader, but there was something about Jesus that drew Nicodemus to that meeting in order to talk to him. He accepted that Jesus was a teacher sent by God and that only through God could the miracles that Jesus performed be done. But I like to think that Nicodemus knew that there was more to Jesus than being a prophet and that he was the Son of God.

I also believe that when Nicodemus left that meeting he was a different person. How else could we explain that he, with Joseph of Arimathea, took Jesus’s body down off the cross, covered it in spices and Myrrh and wrapped it in clothe. (John 19 v 38 – 42).

Jean and I were married for 43 years so the experience of that first meeting didn’t put her off despite builder’s truck and cement bags.

Derek T.