Taking Part

Sunday 17th April 2011
Palm Sunday
St John The Baptist, Clayton

It is highly appropriate that on this day we should participate in the reading of Christ's passion and death. Too often we listen to or read Scripture like an academic text, going behind the words to establish a theological or ethical interpretation; but, as anybody will know who has performed Shakespeare on the stage, as opposed to reading him off the page, the real meaning is conveyed in the drama rather than in the parsing or the exegesis.

The essence of the drama is the use of power by the strong to oppress the weak, to use the Law not as an instrument of justice but as an instrument of control. Whichever way you look at it, the religious trial and the civic trial were both travesties and, in the face of such arbitrary misconduct, it is no wonder that the followers of Jesus were cowed. Mark and Matthew are, I think, unduly harsh. The followers of Jesus were humble Northerners, probably intimidated by posh and pious Jerusalem even before their hopes collapsed. Only Luke records that all of Jesus' followers crept back to stand at a distance from the foot of the cross.

We have played the parts of fishermen out of their depth, of maids and administrators but one of us, Christopher, has had the privilege of playing the part of Jesus.

Usually on such occasions the leading member of the clergy reads the part of Jesus but I think that upsets the balance of this drama of vulnerability, insinuating a measure of hierarchy; our Jesus is powerless, and finally physically broken, his goodness too much for a naughty world.

And if there is one thing I would like us to carry away today it is that we, too, must be vulnerable if we are to imitate Christ. We, as characters in this drama, are weak and wary, prone to prevarication and calculation; but in the Jesus of the passion and death we come face to face with that person we must try to be. The person who not only cares but also leaves himself absolutely open in love to the world, as we must.

So this week, as we live day by day the drama that we have just acted, let us be just a little less sure of ourselves and a little more sure of Jesus.