Sunday, 19 June 2016

Not just sheep

GospelLuke 9:18-24 

One day when Jesus was praying alone in the presence of his disciples he put this question to them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And they answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ It was Peter who spoke up. ‘The Christ of God’ he said. But he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.
  ‘The Son of Man’ he said ‘is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’
  Then to all he said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it

In school we have a lesson to reflect on the Sunday Gospel each week. It has been a revealing lesson for all of us. One of the students commented today that the Jesus she had learnt about in 'little school' was nothing like the one she was thinking about in our lessons. She remembered sheep and donkeys; angels and shepherds; more sheep and then the Cross and really nothing much inbetween. She wasn't the only one. 

It seems, that with the best of intentions, Jesus has become a pseudonym  for being kind and good without any evidence of what he is kind or good at, or even if he is kind or good (he says he isn't- at least the 'good' part).

I guess this is something of an issue when making an icon out of a person; there will always be something missing. I remember reading that Picasso painted his women in their strangely deformed abstractness because he wanted to include everything he found interesting about them. But no matter how artistic a licence you may have you will always be producing an image rather than  an original. Aternatively you quickly skim the surface, leaving behind a shadow that can be interpreted as a cloud, a cat or a sheep. 

The surface skimming crowd sees similarities; points of reference; something they have heard before. They retreat into traditions and memories  of elders who have passed through time; safe in their context of history rather than the uncertainty of here and now. 

Here and now, Jesus is a bit of a challenge. Unwilling to fit the role, the many roles that may have suited, he's a one of kind. At least Peter sees this. He may not know what 'Christ of God' even looks like but Jesus is unique enough to deserve the title. 

The title brings its own rewards and there's not many who would step up to accept them. The challenge of being unique can be a painful one. My students know how that one feels. When they hear Jesus talking about having to walk a path he would rather not, some of them know that too. 

Suddenly, the 'sheep' thing becomes less important. Here is a man doing his best against the odds; a man with a life outside his control; a man who accepts that what he might want is way down on the list because there is much more at stake. A man acting out of Love; a love that they don't even have a name for yet.

This man they will come to; they will bring whatever their cross is and whatever it is made of. For each of them Jesus will be someone different - the one they say he is - and he will share their life and he will save their life. If they will let him. 

And that is my prayer.


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