HAVE you ever caught completely the wrong end of the stick? I once attended a non-existent Edinburgh meeting – a pure figment of my imagination!

Our imaginations are wonderful aids to creativity, but they can also take us down dead-ends and dangerous avenues.

In the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in May 2020, the American actor and stand-up comedian D.L. Hughley described how dangerous our imaginations, coupled with fear and prejudice, can be.

“The most dangerous place for black people to live is in white people’s imagination,” he said.

“We live in an America right now where we have evolved...but we inherently believe black people are criminal.”

“Cannibals! If Jesus wants us to become cannibals, I’m out!” This was the cry of crowds who’d joined the Jesus Train.

It had been one party after another, with remarkable healings, hypocrisy-hammering, supernatural feedings, profound teaching, and ‘water into wine’ moments.

But now Jesus talks openly about his inevitable death and how we have to swallow it whole, body and blood. That was too much for some, unwilling to let Jesus explain and prove himself, they went off in search of the next ‘best thing’.

So, Jesus turns to his trusted 12 and asks them if they also want to scarper, to which Peter pipes the immortal words: “Where else can we go, Jesus? You have the words of eternal life!”

Ron Rolheiser asks the question, “Where does faith live?” Is it in our head or heart, thoughts, or our feelings?

He answers (pardon the crass crudeness), “Our ass is where it’s at!” - i.e. where we move and park our backside is where Jesus can be most active.

You can imagine Peter thinking, “Yes, Jesus, I’d like to walk away! But I know better! What I’ve just heard I don’t get, and what I get I don’t like! Except I know, deep down, that I’m better off ‘not getting it with you’ than getting it some other place.”

Anyone in a long-time commitment, be it in a marriage, a religious vocation, or some community service, knows that there are days and seasons when your commitment looks like death and you feel like walking away.

Except, except, you’re smart enough to know that, long range, this commitment will bring you life.

C.S. Lewis, the great philosopher and author, described his conversion from militant atheism to trust in Christ: “I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”

Perhaps you’re bored? Disillusioned? Craving a second honeymoon? In a crisis of identity? Or do you have something else that is eroding your fidelity like rust on iron?

Like Peter, we’re tempted to walk away. In counselling, one attempts to help a client to discern what they really want to do in their situation.

There are three things to consider: 1. What’s wisest to do? 2. What would I most like to do? 3. What must I do here?

Sometimes all three answers will align and chime together to reveal what one ‘must’ do, but God’s compulsion can be an intuitive sense deeper than thought or feeling about what we need to do for life and can fly in the face of human wisdom and emotion.

Peter would have loved to be back fishing in Galilee as Jesus set course for a head-on collision with all the combining authorities pitted against him, but Peter believed in and trusted Jesus to ultimately deliver the ultimate Way, Truth and Life.

Here in Irvine, the Rev Jamie Milliken and I are ready and willing to become ministers of a united Irvine Parish Church of Scotland – five congregations coming together as one with numerous worship and outreach centres.

It is a humungous task – should we be invited to take it on – and on some levels looks bonkers.

I’ve had my moments when early retirement looked very attractive, but here in Irvine serving God is where my bahooky is to be!

I find great encouragement in William Cowper’s verse in the hymn, ‘God moves in a mysterious way’:

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;

The clouds ye so much dread

Are big with mercy, and shall break

In blessings on your head.

So: where’s your rear end at? And what must you do?