Skip to main content

Scenes from the Passion of the Christ

John 14.23-27

I don't know how many of you are familiar with a series of books called 'Where's Wally?' They show extremely complicated pictures of crowds of people doing lots of different things and the reader's job is to find where Wally is hiding in the picture. He can always be identified by his red and white bobble hat and football scarf, and because he always looks a bit of a Wally. But even so he's often very hard to find. The books are all designed by someone called Martin Handford, and the latest one, 'The Great Paper Chase', was only published this year. But it isn't an original idea. The first person to think of hiding someone familiar in a complicated crowd scene was a painter called Hans Memling.

If you Google for Hans Memling's "Scenes from the Passion of the Christ" you will see that Memling, who was a German painter working in modern day Belgium 540 years ago, decided in 1470 to create a picture which we could justifiably call 'Where's Jesus?' He conceived it as a way of depicting all of the things which happened to Jesus in the last week before his death and resurrection. And he sold it to two of the people portrayed in the picture, who are kneeling in prayer in the foreground at either side of the panorama.

If we look at the whole picture it's very hard to see Jesus at all, but as soon as we start to zoom in on what's going on we shall begin to realise that actually he's not like Wally - hidden somewhere in just one tiny corner of a crowded scene - instead, he dominates the whole picture, because he's everywhere.

I've introduced you to this famous picture, which now hangs in an art gallery in Italy, because it covers most of the events which have dominated our church services here at Sandal since we last held a Parade Service at the beginning of Lent. Here, at one stroke, you can see the Easter story unfold, and I thought that would be a good thing to think about today, which is the last Sunday in the year when Christians traditionally think about Easter. But looking at these scenes also reminds us why there is a church in Sandal.

There have been Christians in Sandal for about 1500 years, but Methodists only began meeting here two hundred years ago. And actually their churches weren't very successful at first. Sandal wasn't a very big place at the time and perhaps people preferred to go to the parish church because, after only 13 years, the Methodist church closed. It was only when Sandal started to grow that some local Methodists tried again, and once more their attempt to start - or plant - a new church failed after a just few years. It was only 113 years ago, in fact, that the modern Sandal Methodist Church began meeting, in an old barn opposite the parish church. And for a long time it was still a fairly small church. Despite moving to this impressive building in 1906 it still had fewer people coming to it than are here at our service today.

So it's not true that churches used to have lots of people going to them in the past and have got smaller in modern times. This church actually had its highest membership, its heyday if you like, less than twenty years ago, in 1994, and it's still has many more people involved in its life than it had for most of its history.

But what's all this activity about? It's not just about people coming together to join in everything from Guiding and Scouting to the choir and messy church, or going out to work with community groups around the area. It's not just about having fun or being serious. It's about being reminded, in everything we do, about the life and teaching of Jesus and sensing his spirit, moving among us to guide us and inspire us to live and die with him. If we keep the focus on Jesus everywhere, in everything we do, perhaps our church will find that its true heyday is yet to come.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I don't believe in an interventionist God

Matthew 28.1-10, 1 Corinthians 15.1-11 I like Nick Cave’s song because of its audacious first line: ‘I don’t believe in an interventionist God’. What an unlikely way to begin a love song! He once explained that he wrote the song while sitting at the back of an Anglican church where he had gone with his wife Susie, who presumably does believe in an interventionist God - at least that’s what the song says. Actually Cave has always been very interested in religion. Sometimes he calls himself a Christian, sometimes he doesn’t, depending on how the mood takes him. He once said, ‘I believe in God in spite of religion, not because of it.’ But his lyrics often include religious themes and he has also said that any true love song is a song for God. So maybe it’s no coincidence that he began this song in such an unlikely way, although he says the inspiration came to him during the sermon. The vicar was droning on about something when the first line of the song just popped into his head. I suspect …

True Love

Mark 12:28-34 In 1981 Prince Charles was put on the spot during a television interview with Lady Diana Spencer, his new fiancee. The interviewer asked them if they were in love. Lady Diana’s instant response was , ‘Of course!,’ but Prince Charles replied, ‘Whatever “in love” means.’ Now in case you think Prince Charles is just a bit of a cold fish, on National Poetry Day 2015 he read a poem on Radio 4, ‘My love is like a red, red rose’ by Robbie Burns. I thought, ‘This is going to be a bit wooden,’ but I was wrong. He read the poem so movingly that Clarence House has made it available on YouTube and Twitter. Listening to him it was impossible to escape the conclusion that he now knows what being “in love” means. O my Love is like a red, red rose, That's newly sprung in June: O my Love is like the melody, That's sweetly played in tune. As fair art thou, my bonnie lass, So deep in love am I; And I will love thee still, my dear, Till a' the seas gang dry. But what does being “in …

Why are good people tempted to do wrong?

Deuteronomy 30.15-20, Psalm 119.1-8, 1 Corinthians 3.1-4, Matthew 5.21-37 Why are good people tempted to do wrong? Sometimes we just fall from the straight and narrow and do mean, selfish or spiteful things. But sometimes we convince ourselves that we’re still good people even though we’re doing something wrong. We tell ourselves that there are some people whose motives are totally wicked or self-regarding: criminals, liars, cheats, two-timers, fraudsters, and so on, but we are not that kind of person. We’re basically good people who just indulge in an occasional misdemeanour. So, for example, there’s Noble Cause Corruption, a phrase first coined apparently in 1992 to explain why police officers, judges, politicians, managers, teachers, social workers and so on sometimes get sucked into justifying actions which are really totally wrong, but on the grounds that they are doing them for a very good reason. A famous instance of noble cause corruption is the statement, by the late Lord Denni…