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To be a peacock or not to be?


A peacock fanning his magnificent tail feathers

John 12.1-8
What do you think about the peacock? I don’t mean, what do you know about peacocks? Or even do you like peacocks? I mean what’s your gut reaction, your first thought, on seeing a peacock?

Someone once described peacocks as ‘the most beautiful birds in the world’. Alexander the Great certainly agreed. He was so impressed by peacocks that he made it a crime to disturb or kill one. Early Christians liked them too. Peacock feathers were believed to keep their colour forever so Christians saw them as a symbol of the resurrection. 

Is that the sort of thing you think when you look at this picture, that peacocks are magnificent, lovely birds? Do they give you a good vibe?

In contrast some Arab people believe the peacock isn’t a cause for wonder but a bad omen. Legend has it that peacocks are supposed to be good at killing snakes but, according to one story, the peacock let the side down by allowing the serpent to slither past him into paradise. The serpent confused him by wrapping itself around his feet, so the peacock was banished for his sins and now spends all his time crying out to God for forgiveness. Other people have thought the peacock is a symbol of overweening pride. People who have a high opinion of themselves are described as strutting like peacocks. 

So what do you think? Are peacocks beautiful or over the top?

Judas and Jesus, or was it Judas and Mary, had an argument about the costly perfume which Mary had used to anoint Jesus’ feet. As far as Judas was concerned it had been wasted. Pouring it out was an empty and extravagant gesture that would quickly be forgotten and which had no deeper significance than Mary’s foolish whim, whereas - in a different version of the story -  Jesus says to him, ‘Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’ For him it was special, full of meaning, a gesture of love and kindness.

I’m not sure how much store we should set by John’s claim that Judas was a thief. His argument with Mary reflects a division that still exists between Jesus’ followers. Some ministers like dressing up in colourful robes, other prefer to lead worship in picnic clothes. A vicar I know only puts his cassock on when he’s finished playing the drums in the worship band. Some people like stained glass, others like plain surroundings for worship. Some like poetry, others prefer plain speaking.

Jesus wants us to help the poor, but he also wants us to be inspired to love and serve him by the beauty and quality of our worship.

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