Skip to main content

Jesus and Yuri Gagarin

Matthew 21.1-11

Yuri Gagarin, the Russian cosmonaut, has a number of things in common with Jesus.

Like Jesus, he was treated as a celebrity. After he became famous, crowds of people flocked to see him, wherever he went in the world.

Like Jesus, he blazed a trail on behalf of the whole human race. He was the first person to go into outer space. Jesus went to Jerusalem on a mission to change the course of history by putting human beings right with God.

Like Jesus, he died tragically young. Jesus was probably about 33 when he died, and Yuri Gagarin was 34 when the plane he was testing crashed in mid-flight.

Like Jesus, he was very brave. When he went into space, no one knew for certain whether space ws a safe place for people to be, or whether his tiny spaceship would return safely to earth again. Jesus knew when he rode into Jerusalem that he was facing certain death. But he went willingly because he believed that it was his duty, his calling from God, to die in order to show us just how much God loves us.

Of course, there are also lots of differences between Yuri Gagarin and Jesus. One of them flew planes and spaceships, and the other one was a carpenter. Only one of them is the figurehead of a world religion and only Jesus said and did lots of memorable things.

Space travel has given us the non-stick frying pan, whereas Jesus gives us the opportunity to discover a totally new quality of life. Finally, only Jesus was raised from death by God so that he continues to be with us even today.


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 …

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…

Giotto’s Nativity and Adoration of the Shepherds

John 1.10-18
In the week before Christmas the BBC broadcast a modern version of The Nativity which attempted to retell the story with as much psychological realism as possible. So, for instance, viewers saw how Mary, and Joseph especially, struggled with their feelings.

But telling the story of Jesus with psychological realism is not a new idea. It has a long tradition going back seven hundred years to the time of the Italian artist Giotto di Bondone. This nativity scene was painted in a church in Padua in about 1305. Much imitated it is one of the first attempts at psychological realism in Christian art. And what a wonderful first attempt it is - a work of genius, in fact!

Whereas previously Mary and the Baby Jesus had been depicted facing outwards, or looking at their visitors, with beatific expressions fixed on their faces, Giotto dares to show them staring intently into one another’s eyes, bonding like any mother and newborn baby. Joseph, in contrast, is not looking on with quiet app…