Today the words ‘loose canon’, ‘PR’ and ‘there needs to be something in it for them’ collided in my poor wee brain and wiped the smile off my face faster than Nanna’s flannel could clear ice-cream from a post-delighted face.
Another phrase also reverberates in the back of my mind, ‘What exactly IS your message?’ It’s difficult isn’t it when nasty, sticky journalism thriving on rotten news like flies sucking up decomposing flesh, flourishes on the demise of others for singularly personal gain. Those who are following the Leveson enquiry will know that this isn’t the first time that the personal intimacies and sorrows of others – whether or not self-induced – have made headlines and pound signs for the unscrupulous.
The ‘Good News’ story has gone out of fashion, and I don’t just mean Nina found her pound! or Mr Smith’s marrow won ‘Vegetable most likely to make a guest appearance in Dr Who’. For sometimes, even the ‘Good News’ or gospel as we Christians know it, becomes buried beneath the glossy PR which the cynical, the sceptic and the seeker for Truth all see through in seconds flat.
Being a Christian isn’t easy, isn’t a prop and is blessed hard work in a world where the words, ‘I was thinking of some foot-washing or shoe-shining as an act of service during Holy Week’ can be met with, ‘hmmm…if they are going to come and do that, what’s in it for them?’ I would like to think that this is a one-off situation but not three minutes ago a good friend in another town posted something similar about somebody wanting to know if there was a free lunch involved in a charitable act before committing themselves to it.
Even on some imaginary abacus that deals with virtue and love and faith and the like that doesn’t add up to Good News for anybody watching from the sidelines and wondering what it is all about.
Being authentic, speaking truth and raising one’s head above the parapet for such causes as justice, liberation and – that’s right, the difficult, uncomfortable, challenging and often immensely costly Good News seems to me to be Christ-like if He is our pattern, and yet it is so often evaded as waters as calmed and boats are safely tethered into a dry dock where they can’t upset anybody.
Jesus, as I read the gospels, didn’t shy away from conflict when the liberation of oppressed people was at stake. More than once His life was threatened simply after preaching against the judgemental religiosity of the day. He talked constantly about what the kingdom of God is like and left us to make of it what we will. He gave us free choice, opportunity, and words like a double-edged sword that cut to the quick but two thousand years later can still lance the boils that blur our vision as we justify watching children starve on the news while we overeat and pay for slimming clubs and gym memberships that we never use (mea culpa).
A tweep I’m hooked up with has named himself ‘JesusNeedsNewPR’ but I wonder if He needs any PR at all. Maybe we need to stop trying to package Him up into some semi-commercialised benefactor that resonates with our materialistic self-oriented ‘what’s in it for me’ culture in such a way that we ‘get it’ in terms of our own lost-ness, missing ever being found.
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Because the Jesus that I know, the one I have read about and talked with, known and unknown, longed for, lost, found, missed beyond all imagining and never understood, is the One who spoke up and was threatened with His life. The One who lived outside of the box, but entered it time and again to break down it’s excluding walls and challenge people’s prejudices and systems of rank whatever they might be. He is the One who would risk the wrath of those in ‘the know’ to speak out for what was right, yet understood always that what was right was the mercy and love of God for ‘the least of these My people’.
The One who’d rather suffer Himself than let another, even if it was His enemy; ‘Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.’ I hope to God He’s still praying that right now, for the lot of us.
The One who – knowing His time was up didn’t say, ‘Guys, I’m about to go through hell, so make this a night to remember, tonight I’m doing nowt!’ but who fell to His knees and served the ones who would betray and desert Him by washing their filthy feet.
The Anchor will be serving their neighbours, their friends and their enemies by shoe shining during Holy Week. For free. And if you’d like your feet washed, we’re happy to do that for you, too.