Advent Book Club 2017: Unearthly Beauty by Magdalen Smith Day 2: Andrew

She lost me when she said that being a disciple of John the Baptist was perhaps a hint of spiritual discipline already woven into Andrew’s life.

Historically my understanding is that John the Baptist was a radical revolutionary attempting to overthrow the Roman rule. Sure, he also called for repentance – a return to “traditional religious values” – but that meant something quite different then compared with now. Religion was part of the warp and weft of the nation, part of the identity of the Jews. State and faith couldn’t be separated – except that is what the Roman invasion had done (or attempted to do). But that call to repentance and return to allegiance to God will have been seen by the Romans as a call to insurrection – and his followers will have known that. So identity as a follower of John the Baptist marks Andrew out more as a man of courage and fire more than anything. And as for labelling him as an “ordinary bloke”… I reckon we are _all_ ordinary, whatever our status or role. To think otherwise is to subscribe (possibly unwittingly) to our celebrity culture. We are also all extraordinary in our potential and in our individuality.

I also struggle with the (inevitable in someone church-oriented?) linking by Magdalen of “vocation” to “ordained ministry”. Very few are called to that, and it is not the “highest calling” although so often presented that way by the church and viewed that way by laity.

Other examples could have been found:

  • The wife who faithfully loves, cares for and nurses her husband through a progressive illness which disables him over decades by cruel stages.
  • The man who sacrifices his own career prospects in order to be at home at a reasonable time every evening to spend time with his small children.
  • The child who cares for and supports a friend in the face of playground bullying.
  • The person on a low wage who doesn’t quite qualify for benefits and chooses to forgo a rare treat in order to put something in the food bank collection at the supermarket.

_These_ are examples of people following the call of Christ – even without knowing that is what they are doing.


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