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The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, at the 9th Station of the Cross.

Master and Apprentice

by Pastor Phil Smith, BELLS Faith Community.

There’s a barber shop in the old city of Jerusalem – at least, I hope Ahmed is still there. It’s in the Arab quarter. When we walked in (me, my wife, and two other travelling companions) it didn’t occur to me that very few women would have been in that shop. However, the old Palestinian blokes reading their papers didn’t seem to mind.

Ahmed had a customer in his chair, so he assigned me to his trusty teenage apprentice, who spoke almost no English! I don’t have any Arabic, and I know nothing about cutting hair. So, I explained to Ahmed. He explained to the young fellow, who produced a cutthroat razor and began stropping!

Checking in now and then with a nod or a raised eyebrow, we got underway. When it was done, I had a smile like a slice of watermelon. Mustering his best accent, the apprentice said, “Sir, I think you look ‘fresh’.”

At which point, one old bloke lowered his paper, checked me in the mirror, and announced to my female companions, “Sir, with a haircut like that, you could have four wives!” There followed laughter and interpreted conversation about life in Australia and being who we are, life in the Old City and beyond the wall, family, and diaspora: wonderful.

When we don’t know what to say, when we don’t speak the language, when we shrug our shoulders and admit we don’t have all the answers – we can learn together, from one another and find a way.

In John 12, my namesake, Philip (his family could only afford one letter ‘L’), was from Bethsaida in Galilee. In his time, he would have been just up the street from Ahmed’s barber shop in the big city, meeting foreigners who had questions about Jesus… and he was stumped.

So, he asked Andrew, two apprentices learning together on the job, what Jesus would assign them to later as they went among all nations, making more disciples. Then, they asked The Boss to explain and demonstrate what they all needed to learn.

We get to do the same.

Read more of the Reflection by Pastor Phil Smith, BELLS Faith Community at Journey Online

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