Preacher Canon Robert Titley
Everybody knows somebody who – when in a certain mood – is never satisfied. When the window is closed the room is too stuffy; open the window, and the room is too draughty. Well, Jesus found the same. This morning we get a glimpse of everyday life in first century Palestine with a quote from a nursery rhyme – We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn,’ which Jesus uses to say, ‘What are you people like? First comes John the Baptist and you say, “Nah! Too austere, too stern, too weird.” Then comes the Son of Man (Jesus here seems to refer to himself) and people say, “Nah! Too much of a party animal.”’
Well, no-one finds fault in Jesus now. I read something in the Metro this week that should save us all a lot of trouble if it is true. Elton John says that Jesus would be in favour of same-sex marriages for clergy.
If Jesus Christ was alive today, I cannot see him, as the Christian person that he was, and the great person that he was, saying this could not happen. He was all about love and compassion and forgiveness…
And Elton has previous on this. A couple of years ago in another interview he said that ‘Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems.’ And he is not alone – everyone wants Jesus on their team, even – yes – Richard Dawkins: ‘Someone as intelligent as Jesus would have been an atheist if he had known what we know today.’ And there was a First World War chaplain who made Jesus look like a figure on a recruiting poster, ‘the Man with the iron body, and the iron will.’
For the real Jesus, as we see this morning, things were a bit different. The real Jesus is someone you might disagree with – even dislike – not just a blank screen on which you can project whatever you think is right and good. And it’s important that we get to know the real Jesus. The faith we proclaim here says that he is the human face of God, and so there is nothing more important on this earth than getting to know who he is. How do we do that?
To do that we go to the Bible: to the Hebrew Scriptures that fed his soul; to the New Testament which records the early reactions to him; and especially to the gospels and the four portraits they paint of him. And – commercial break – we’ll soon have the perfect opportunity, you and I, to tackle this together.
From 3-5 October we have the Parish Weekend, in the unique setting of Aylesford Priory and its stunning medieval courtyard. The theme is ‘Encountering the Bible’ and it’s led by your own, personal vicar, David Gardiner. St Matthias in the past has not sent very many to what is one of the very best things our team does. Let’s make this the year that changes. Details at the back.
Jesus today promises us a welcome, whoever we are, especially when we labour and are heavy laden; but if he never surprises us, never takes us aback, then we are not meeting the real Jesus and we shan’t find true rest.
The God Jesus reveals will not be just as we wish: God will be God.
Back in 1906 there was a man called Albert Schweitzer. He took very seriously the business of discovering the real Jesus as he was then and knowing Jesus now. In that year he wrote a book, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, which ends with these words.
He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake-side, He came to those who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word: ‘Follow thou me!’ and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfil in our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.
The Man with the iron body in Jesus, The Complete Guide J. L. Houlden, 2005.