Friday 2 December 2016

Come and See

Then Jesus turned and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see.

St. John 1: 38-39


We followed him up the coffee-stained stairs as what they used to call Great Britain disintegrated into rubble outside. it was dark, but not late - half-four, five o'clock - something like that. There were a good few hours left in the call centre day, but the heart (if that's not too strong a word) had long quit the place.

We walked the length of the corridor, passing Rooms B1, B2 and B3 on our way. People were still working, or pretending to work. Red-faced supervisors - yesterday's big guns - huffed and puffed, pointing to graphs and charts on whiteboards that mattered less and less with each explosion, each random alarm and each plane screaming overhead. Management and staff alike glanced nervously out of the windows. Rain sheeted down in slanting Manchester stair-rods. The lights went out in the insurance place opposite. We arrived at Room B5.

We stood together, James and I, on one side of the desk, while he addressed us from the other. He spoke with clarity and authority, not the sham authority of the 'management team', but a deep, rich, golden lordliness - serious and jovial at once - welling up, it seemed, from the centre of his being.

'That's the bloke you need,' Jock the security guard had told us not five minutes before. We'd watched him as he passed us by, coming back from the broken tea machine. It was hard to credit, looking at him, that this was the one we had been seeking - the one to give pattern, purpose, shape and direction to our lives. But there it was. Jock knew his stuff. He radiated inner authority himself.

There was nothing special about the new guy, you see. Not at first sight. It's only been later, since we've had a bit of  time and space, that we've started to get a sense of what he's about.

I found it hard in the call centre to tell how old he was. Some days he'd look young; others old. He was tall and slim, with brown spiky hair and a long, stubbly face. His accent was local; more the north side of town than the south, I thought. Salford, perhaps. But it was what he said that counted. He promised us nothing ... yet everything.

'Andrew, James,' he began. 'You have come. Now you see. Here I am. Here's where I live - here at the heart of things when the world splits apart. This is my home. These are my people - broken, weak and fallible - people like you; people like me. You'll always find me here, in the chaos and collapse, when the glass towers fall and the shattered limbs of analysts and executives lie scattered on the boardroom floor.'

'Abide with me,' he went on. 'Work with me. I offer you nothing in terms of medals, praise, renown and worldly security. Quite the reverse. I can, however, guarantee you everything that burns most fiercely in your hearts and has done since you were boys - your desire for fellowship and nobility, for dignified, meaningful work, and for lives dedicated to the service of the sacred.'

He paused, then fixed us with those wide, brown eyes. 'Gentlemen, are you with me?' I glanced to my left. James was fiddling surreptitiously with his phone. I smiled. I knew what he was doing. Texting his brother, John. That's what gave me the idea. I put my hand in my pocket. It was time I contacted my own brother.

'We've not got time to be messing around with phones,' he said. But there was light in his eyes and a smile playing around the corners of his mouth. 'Especially not in a call centre.'

Outside, another powerful explosion rent the air. Then the lights went out with a little phutt, and we were left with the glow of our phones. Mine vibrated in my hand. I held it up and looked at the screen. 'On my way,' said the text. Then the alarms went off.


Andrew findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, we have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is, by interpretation, A Stone.

St. John 1: 41-42