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  • Ross Moughtin

When we are stuck

I just managed to catch the 17.07 to Lime Street from Euston. At 17.27 the Virgin tweet appeared in dramatic block capitals. "NEW: ALL CUSTOMERS TO ABANDON TRAVEL.

We soon made an unscheduled stop at Milton Keynes Central, along with other pendolino trains. An imaginative decision by Virgin – so you could always get off rather than be marooned between stations. I decided to leave because amazingly son-in-law Ewan was just five miles away. He gave me a lift to Bedford, to spend the night with him and Jen.

As I gathered my possessions, my fellow passengers looked at me wistfully. One asked: “How many bedrooms does your daughter have?” They knew they were in for a long night – and there was nothing they could do about it. They eventually made Lime Street at 2.30 am.

There nothing worse than being trapped, deprived of choice – in whatever context. In fact, the feeling of loss of control is one of the main causes of stress and lack of wellbeing. This is especially so of the workplace where mindless routine is more taxing than carrying responsibility. We need to feel in some measure that we have a hand on the steering wheel.

Many of the Psalms speak about such loss of control in the startlingly contemporary image of flood water. “I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.” (Psalm 69:2). We all have this fear of being swept along by events, overwhelmed by events.

I remember being bowled over by the opening chapters of “Love's Endeavour, Love's Expense” remarkable book written by Bill Vanstone, who at one time in his life had been a vicar up the road from me in Rochdale.

Canon Vanstone observes that for the first part of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is invariably the subject of the verb. Jesus teaches, Jesus heals, Jesus prays, Jesus reaches out his hand. He is in control.

Then comes Gethsemane as Jesus explains that he is betrayed (literally: handed over) into the hands of sinners (Mark 14:41). He becomes an object. So Judas kisses Jesus, the soldiers seize Jesus and above all, they crucify Jesus. You can’t get any more loss of control when you are nailed to a cross.

And yet

The change happens ‘on the night when he was betrayed’. This is a misleading translation. Paul never refers to the story of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus; he has something else in mind: not the betrayal of Jesus by any human agent, but rather God’s action of handing Jesus over to death. This is vividly expressed by the phrase, literally, “they handed Jesus over” (Mark 15:10)

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