The poster heading up this week’s blog was issued in the early “Noughties” by the Church of England as part of a Lent/Easter resource pack seeking to spark conversation regarding how we understand Christ and respond to the key question once posed by Christ to Peter and the disciples….”Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8 v 29).
In terms of the poster, T-shirts were also produced. I should know, as I actually proudly wore one in my younger days whilst a Diocesan Youth Officer for Canterbury Diocese. Maybe in my naivety I saw myself “Che Guevara like” building the Kingdom of God and being “revolutionary”. Knowing more about Guevara today, I would be hesitant to draw too close a comparison regardless of his iconoclastic status.
However, having grown up with an image of Christ that always seemed to portray him as “meek and mild” with small children playing at his feet or Christ holding little lambs tenderly in his arms, I found the “Guevara Christ” image unsettling and uncomfortable.
What if Jesus sometimes demands from his followers action that shakes up the status quo? Up ends tables metaphorically speaking? Or, as in the Gospel below, quite literally?
In this week’s Lectionary Gospel reading (John Ch 2 v 13 to 22) we see Christ cause no end of upset. Here is how Petersen in his paraphrase of the Bible (The Message) puts it…
13-14 When the Passover Feast, celebrated each spring by the Jews, was about to take place, Jesus traveled up to Jerusalem. He found the Temple teeming with people selling cattle and sheep and doves. The loan sharks were also there in full strength.
15-17 Jesus put together a whip out of strips of leather and chased them out of the Temple, stampeding the sheep and cattle, upending the tables of the loan sharks, spilling coins left and right. He told the dove merchants, “Get your things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a shopping mall!” That’s when his disciples remembered the Scripture, “Zeal for your house consumes me.”
18-19 But the Jews were upset.”
No end of challenge here. Christ consumed with a holy anger cleansing the Temple, up turning tables and upsetting both onlookers, worshippers and those who profited from Temple sacrificial rules. I am conversely enthralled by Christ’s righteous anger and perturbed at how often I have not acted in the same fearless spirit (if not exactly using the same physical actions) when facing wrong doing.
It was the late Democratic Senator, John Lewis who talked of creating “good trouble” as a response to addressing society’s ills. Goodness, look around the world and what good might “good trouble” bring about? What good has “good trouble” indeed resulted in, witness global movements around race, gender, poverty, health care and climate matters to name but a few pressing concerns? Or witness the “good trouble” Wilberforce, Elizabeth Fry, Mary Ann McCracken, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr, Greta Thunberg and countless, countless others have, across history, brought good change with. “Good trouble” it seems does quite a lot of “good”. Thanks be to God..
And what if, in being Christ’s disciples, in being “salt and light” (Matthew 5 v 13 to 16) sometimes the salt stings as it heals and sometimes the light reveals what is hidden when it is plugged in?
And what if “meek and mild” is not always enough in addressing the ills of the world and occasionally Christians (alongside many others) are called to a non-violent, series of actions, that confronts today’s “principalities and powers” (Ephesians 6 v 12) and injustices?