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Dear Friends,

One of the guest editors on the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme was Sir Jeremy Fleming, the Head of GCHQ. It was the first time that a Director of the Governments Communications Head Quarters had done such a programme on public radio.

GCHQ has always been surrounded in mystery and controversy because its job is to collect information for the security services by listening to people all over the world. GCHQ collects data and that is what was Sir Jeremy was reflecting on, the balance between personal freedom and keeping the UK safe from violent threats. It reflects the old saying that knowledge/data/information is power.

Interestingly, Sir Jeremy, a keen sailor, talked about HMI – Human Machine Interface. Sports analysts collect data from athletes and sport machines such as cars and boats to maximise human and machine potential to enhance performance on the sports field. Collecting data from athletes allows analysts to create diets and training regimes for the competitors to give them that extra edge.

You might find the above collection of data very helpful or a complete nightmare. I guess it depends on how the data is collected, stored and used. Some information we are happy to share and then there are times when we need to keep a secret.

In one of the Epiphany readings from Isaiah 49 v1 we read: “Before I was born the LORD called me, from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name”.

I find this verse very humbling and fascinating in equal measure

This passage speaks of the mystery of God’s knowledge of us before our birth. That God was speaking to us by name before our parents knew the sex of their own child. These words speak of intimacy and love. Out of this careful knowledge God crafted every human life with purpose and meaning. We all have a calling in life.

Equally, some may find it rather intimidating that God “knows” so much about us. Where is free will and personal choice in all of this? We are happy for GCHQ to listen in on terrorists, but not our personal emails and phone calls.

I believe God’s love is not controlling or demanding. We see this in the life of Jesus. Not everyone was convinced by his teaching and preaching and they walked away. Jesus kept faith with his friends and was eventually betrayed by one of them by a kiss. If Jesus had such foreknowledge, he  didn’t appear to manipulate it for his own gain.

Indeed, God knows and loves very dearly. Let us build on such a strong foundation!


With every blessing, John Gordon

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