Monday, March 24, 2008

Face off

Richard, Annie and I watched the final part of BBC's 'The Passion' last night with a small amount of trepidation that the usual cynical approach to the resurrection would prevail. We had only watched the previous episode, not the ones earlier in the week: I'm always a bit reticent to see interpretations of Jesus, afraid that someone else's version of Christ will stick in my head in an unhelpful way. Even if the version is potentialy a good one - remembering Zeffirelli's 'Jesus of Nazareth' - it can still 'stick' a bit too well, so that I can feel I'm praying to Robert Powell at times - even now!

But I loved the way that last night's production interpreted two of the gospel readings. The Bible tells us that both Mary in the garden and the two on the road to Emmaus failed to recognise Jesus at first; then 'saw' him in the simple and familiar - Mary as he called her name, and the two as they watched him break bread. 'The Passion' demonstrated this by using different actors, the first one looking more like the original than the second (or was that the same person with different hair, prosthetics etc?), who used some familiar body language and turns of phrase to make both the disciples in the story and the audience wonder if it was the same person or not.

The whole effect made me more conscious of the ordinary humanity of Jesus - dirty fingernails, calloused feet, sunburned face and all; and of the ability he has to get under our skin, to force us to recognise his presence even when everything in us wants to deny it.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday: Imagine if...



Through the dust and fumes of a Spring morning he rode,
Choosing the simplest and most humble of transports.
The crowd began to gather almost at once
As news of this most inauspicious of visitations spread from house to house.
Through the outlying regions he came, gathering momentum, freewheeling where the gradient allowed, smiling at those who had dropped everything to celebrate this moment.
Past Filton, Horfield, Bishopston, Montpelier, he paused at the traffic lights and gazed up the City Road towards St Pauls, not speaking but calling just the same.
Then, onward he cycled, slower now
Through Stokes Croft where the everyday artists sat smoking and waving, and the girls from the massage parlours smiled to acknowledge one who would not condemn.
Crossing to the Barton Roundabout he briefly dismounted
Clattering his bicycle down the ramp so that he could celebrate with those who also had nowhere to call home, as they whiled away the hours drinking toasts to the music of the subway tin whistle.
Back on the bike, chasing the skinny dogs that leaped around his wheels, he turned southwards; passing the temples of commerce and on to the place where the fountains danced for joy. The people came surging forwards now, rushing out of shops and bars to lay their fleeces and their city jackets over the fag-ends and discarded chewing gum at his feet. Unable to contain their wonder they kicked off their shoes and splashed through the fountains, reaching for songs that they half-remembered; then lapsing back into those they did –
- Mr Blue Sky –
- All you need is love –
And ‘Angels’, as some held their lighters aloft, whilst others captured the moment on their mobile cameras.
He did not wait for this photo-opportunity; instead he turned once more, and began the slower ascent up Park Street, pausing only briefly to beckon the clergy from the Cathedral gathered outside on the grass, and swerving to steer in and out of the skateboarders as they put on a show for him.
Laughing, he stood up on his pedals, leaning his head towards the handlebars, aware of those around who likewise bowed their heads.
As he reached the Triangle more crowds gathered, shouting his name now, and ‘Hosanna! Hosanna!’
Children on a school trip to the Museum called out ‘Look this way! This way!’ –
And he frowned,
As the teacher corralled them back into their orderly crocodile.
No sense of order was his domain this day
As the chaos of crowds and the cacophony of praise prevailed
And the traffic was brought to a standstill by one lone cyclist
Who nonetheless was a calm point in the midst of all this
And on whose actions rested all of the upheaval in other peoples’ lives.
Turning towards the Whiteladies Road
He rode on
Because even the rich people need saving.
Office windows were flung open
or lifted to the height that restraints would allow –
as the assembled crowd raised their frothy mochaccinos towards him
then turned back to the priorities of the day.

Ride on.
Ride on.

TAW March 2008