So my wife had a dream last night. She was about to marry someone else but I arrived to try to change her mind. As she surveyed how her husband to be and I were setting up the Church for the weddings we both wanted she recognised a difference. The other guy had set up the room with pictures of himself BUT I had set it up with photographs of Janice. She quickly realised that one wedding was all about him and the other all about her. He loved himself and I loved her. She chose me. Janice rarely shares her dreams but this one was profound for her and I took enough time to listen but felt that it was just a dream.
Later in the day I was spending time preparing for Sunday's sermon in John 18 where Pilate and Jesus are in confrontation. As Pilate is interrogating Jesus about whether he was King or not and Jesus was answering as the King of Kings but in a way Pilate could not understand I realised that Jesus was modelling a different kind of power. Jesus was laying down his life for the world not slaying the world for his own gain. Jesus as King of Love was declaring a new way of humility and grace. This is so utterly other worldly as in indeed Jesus states clearly to Pilate that there is simply nothing more prophetic, profound, radical and revolutionary. It turns everything on its head. Jesus didn't come to bring us a nicer cleaner sanitised version of the way the world is. He came to rip it to pieces and give us an entirely different dissonant way to live. It was about turning the other cheek, giving the extra coat, going the extra mile. Crazy mad stuff!
I was wondering how I could illustrate the difference between Caesar and Jesus, the despotic Kings of Jesus time and his alternative Kingship. I couldn’t help but see that the traditional Kings put up pictures and image of themselves. Images of Caesar were everywhere in the Roman world, on coins, kitchen utensils, statues at libraries and sports arenas; everywhere! Instead Jesus put pictures of us everywhere. As Paul put it in Romans 5, “God demonstrated his love for us in this while we were sinners Christ died for us.” Us! It is the beloved that this King lives for and gives himself for.
Later in the day I heard that Unionist politicians had walked out of peace talks in Northern Ireland. I was angry, frustrated and felt let down. On Sunday night at Summer Madness thouands of young people prayed for our politicians that they would give us a shared future. The sound of their voices as they prayed for politicians in front of them is a memory to cherish. The politicians reponse today was not the answer they were looking for! Then Janice’s dream and John 18 came to mind. Are our politicians modelling Jesus or Caesar? Is power about them or about the people? Is it their flags, their colours, their images, their parades and the autocratic demand to walk a few hundred yards or is it about a shared future for all the people of Northern Ireland. I find it more disappointing when I realise how many of those politicians were in Church on Sunday, carry Bibles, read Bibles, know their Bible and claim to follow Jesus.
Oh that they would find themselves at the centre of history, in the passion of Jesus, where Jesus overthrew the idea of power over others and gave us the humble King on a donkey power to lay down our lives for the good of the other; to love neighbours, to love enemies, to be peacemakers, to break down barriers of hostility. What if when the Parade's Commission banned a walk they turned the other cheek and cancelled an extra one? What if when they were rerouted half a mile they asked if they could be rerouted an extra half mile just so as not to offend the neighbours that they desire to love! The world would think they were soft and had lost the plot! Which is exactly what they would be doing; losing the plot of the way of the world to reveal in bright spotlights the new plot of the Kingdom of God. What would God think? He would think that at last they had gotten it and we were getting somewhere? Sound dissonant? I hope so. There is no other Gospel!
Whose pictures have we up?