“I have come that you may have life in all its fullness”. John 10:10
By Revd Canon Andrew Bunch, Vicar of St Giles’ and St Margaret’s, Oxford:
The Christian faith has been an integral part of my life from my earliest days. I was brought up in a vicarage and went to a secondary school with a religious foundation. Although I knew the key stories of the Bible and regularly worshipped in church, I cannot say that I could have given a clear view of what Bible stories motivated my faith. But this started to change in the 1980s, partially due to regularly travelling on the underground going home from my place of work in the City of London.
On that journey, the underground train regularly stopped in a disused station whilst waiting for the lights to proceed. Chalked on the empty station wall was “Jn 10:10” and, as I tended to travel in the same carriage each day, I saw this inscription fairly frequently. After a while I became curious about the reference and so looked it up. From then on, the quotation has become lodged in my mind.
My commitment to a life of faith has grown over the years and in the early 1980’s it propelled me to enquire about ordination. On the second attempt, I was accepted for training and was ordained to be a priest working in secular employment. I definitely did not want to be a parish priest, I wanted to bring the Christian faith into the workplace and have this outreach rooted in the parish back home. My level of responsibility at work grew and things went well for me. One day my boss came in to have a quiet chat. He indicated that I could have a great career in the company, but I would have to give up my active involvement with the life of the church. I was well aware of the tensions he was referring to; it become very obvious when I had to prepare a sermon in the middle of the night when flying back from a presentation I had just given in Anchorage. But the question that my boss had posed made me reflect on how I wanted to spend the rest of my working life.
“I have come that you may have life in all its fullness” – Yes, I wanted to have a life which would be the most fulfilling that it could be. Yes, I could pursue a career in industry, but would this be completely fulfilling to the person that I am? It seemed that such a life could only be partially fulfilling for me. Such a life would not be fully in touch with the core of my being, especially if I had to set aside my commitment to share the Christian faith with others. So, the die was cast; I handed in my resignation and became and parish priest.
What I can say is that the life that followed has tested me to the utmost, in many different ways. I have been involved with others in situations that I would never otherwise had access to. Insights, special moments, pains and joys have been shared that I would never otherwise experienced. Life has been very full, “my cup has overflowed” in so many different ways – it has been a roller-coaster of a ride.
I know that I owe an awful lot to others that have shared their lives with me. I haven’t been bungie jumping like my sons, but I have plumbed the depths and seen life in times of the greatest delight. I realise that life in all its fullness is not a solo affair, it is a shared experience, known in community with others. So, I want to say a huge thank you to all of you who have shared in the journey that I have been on in the past 23 years. I am sorry for any pain or distress I have unwittingly caused, and I want to thank you for all the various ways you have enriched my life. Thank you all, but most of all I want to thank Kathryn and my family for travelling this journey with me. All of you have helped me glimpse what life can be like in all its fullness when we take the Gospel that Jesus shared to heart and try to make it real in our own lives.
When I was ordained someone from the local convent gave me a card on which the words of Dag Hammarskjöld were written “For all that has been, Thanks. To all that shall be, Yes!” Is this sentiment an appreciation of John 10:10 in real life?
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