I’m writing this blog during Holy Week, and as I read through my Bible plan, I am struck this year by a call to look more closely at things.

During Holy Week, Jesus curses a fig tree that looks like it’s flourishing, but is not fruitful (Mark 11:12-14). He frequently asks challenging questions of the Pharisees and Saducees; those perceived to be the most holy of leaders. He praises a widow’s small, but entirely sacrificial offering (Mark 12:41-44), and Judas, who appears to believe in and love Jesus, betrays him.

As Christians, we know that our faith should lead us to question and to be discerning of the world around us. But how willing are we to do it? This one week of Jesus’ life seems to me to be so exhausting – he spends this time being challenged by and counter-challenging leadership, encouraging the disciples and crowds, and literally clearing the temple of those who are abusing it. I am 100% on board with all of this, but the reality of exercising this discernment and turning it into action feels like a lot!

But here’s the thing. God freely gives us the gifts of the Spirit, which includes discernment (1 Corinthians 12:1-11), and having been given this gift, we must use it and trust that it is a good gift. Having looked closer, if we find something that isn’t aligned with God’s will, Jesus provides many examples of how we might proceed – could we ask questions which might encourage a change in behaviour? Might we protest against the injustice? Might we plainly say, “this is not God’s”?

When we see something or someone which mirrors God’s heart, how do we encourage that, or indeed emulate it ourselves? Of course, the Resurrection is proof that looking closer can also bring great joy. Mary encounters someone who she believes to be a gardener; who, with one proper look, she realises to be Jesus. In looking closer, she was able to lay aside her worldly expectations and enact a faith which surpassed her experiences. In looking closer, she was able to confirm that everything he had told her and promised her was truth.

This moment surely became a cornerstone for her faith, her later mission and indeed for billions of people across history. At Leeds Sanctuary, we build communities that foster reflection and encourage discernment, and we do these together in the hope of not becoming weary and burned out. We’d love to see you at one of these communities soon!

By Emily Smith, Leeds Sanctuary