This is our 200th post on the blog and we wondered what to write about as it seemed a significant marker post for us. We decided to share one of the stories we use and which had an impact on the way we think about ministry. We don’t know who wrote it originally – googling it suggests it may be someone called Francis Dorff but it is online in lots of different formats. It is a story that sheds light on one of our favourite Bible passages – John 13.34-5: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples”. This was said of one of the very early teams we looked after in YFC and it stuck with us. Imagine what the church might look like if we treated each other as if we were the Messiah…
This is the story:
There was a famous monastery that had fallen on hard times. Formerly its many buildings were filled up with young monks and its big church was surrounded with the sound of chants and singing, but now it was deserted. People no longer came there to be nourished by prayer, worship or community. Only a hand full of old monks shuffled through the cloisters and they praised God with heavy hearts.
Near the monastery was a wood and in the wood to lived an old Rabbi who had built a small hut. He would come sometimes to the monastery to fast and pray. No one ever spoken to him but the monks were always pleased to see him. As long as he was there the monks would feel helped and encouraged by his prayerful presence.
One day the Abbot of the monastery decided to visit the Rabbi and to open his heart to him. So, soon after morning prayer the Abbot set out towards the woods and the Rabbi’s hut. As the hut came into view the Abbot saw the Rabbi standing in these in the doorway out stretching his arms in welcome. The Abbot thought it was as though he had been waiting there for him. The two men embraced each other like long lost brothers and then stood back smiling at each other.
The Rabbi invited the Abbot to into his hut. The Rabbi said “you and your brothers are serving God with heavy hearts and you have come to me for wisdom and advice. I will give you the teaching you require on one condition. That when I tell you what it is I have to say you must promise me to only repeat it once. After that no one must say it aloud again.”
The Abbot agreed and the Rabbi looked straight back to him and said “the Messiah is among you.” For a while both men were silent, neither knowing what to say. The Rabbi eventually said “it is now time for you to go back,” the Abbot left pondering the words he had heard.
The next morning, the Abbot called his monks together in the main room. He told them he had been to visit the Rabbi in the woods to receive wisdom from him on their situation. He explained to the other monks the condition the Rabbi had put on the teaching. The Abbot paused with all the eyes of the other monks on him wondering what he might say. Eventually the Abbot said this “the Rabbi says that the Messiah is among us.” The monks were startled by this teaching, “What could it mean they asked each other?” “Who could it be they asked, could it be a brother John or Matthew or Thomas? Could I be that I am the Messiah?” They were all deeply puzzled by the Rabbi’s teaching. But no one ever mentioned it again.
As time went by, the monks began to treat one another with a very special reverence. There was a gentle, wholehearted, and generous human spirit among them now which was very hard to describe but very easy to notice. They lived with one another as people who had finally found something. But they prayed and lived and read the scriptures together as though they were looking for something. Occasionally visitors found themselves deeply moved by the life of these monks. Before long, people were coming from far and wide to be nourished by the prayer life and community of the monks and people were asking to become a part of their life together in the community.