Until I came to Wesley Hall, camping was a complete mystery to me – apart from one night in a tent with a friend when I was 18, I was a novice. My one experience wasn’t that great as the tent leaked and we only had one sleeping bag between us. Never again, I thought determinedly.
However, I’ve enjoyed the times I’ve been to camp with the Wesley Hall Brigades. Hot sunny days, the beach, the food, eating together in the marquee, the fun and games – good times. There is of course the other side of the coin: having to get up in the middle of the night to traipse over to the loos – especially enjoyable when it’s raining, and the way the blow up bed always seems to leak in the middle of the night which means you end up lying on the ground, usually with a stone sticking in your back.
No doubt it was these more uncomfortable aspects of camping that made most of the tented protesters outside St Paul’s head for their nice warm comfortable beds and bathrooms every night leaving a few brave souls behind to guard the camp. I find it all rather amusing. I know I shouldn’t, it’s all very serious. The protest is something I’m in sympathy with in principle, bankers do have a great deal to answer for I fear. A great Cathedral has had to shut its doors for only the second time in its history, a canon has resigned over the way the protest has been handled by the church and legal action is to be taken to ‘evict’ the campaigners. Not, I suspect, because the church has had a change of heart about the validity of the protest but because it’s all proving to be very inconvenient. The protesters have got so much more publicity because St Paul’s had to shut than they would have done otherwise. My worry is that the public will also consider it slightly amusing and very inconvenient – the message may well be lost in the confusion.
However, my purpose in writing isn’t political. The situation has made me think about where Jesus would be in this strange situation. Would he be in the Cathedral trying to work out what to do about this tricky situation? Would he be outside in the tents and with the ‘General Assembly’ of the protesters? Or would he be in the city with the bankers?
What do you think? Undoubtedly Jesus was a protester; remember the incident with the whip in the temple? He also reached out to the poor and the disaffected; he brought change, healing and transformation. But what on earth would he think of a group of people who popped home to a nice warm bed when it got a bit uncomfortable? Can we be part time Christians popping back when we want to? Jesus was a religious man so you’d think he’d be in the cathedral. But the religious leaders of his day didn’t understand him, saw him as a threat and plotted to get rid of him. Do we understand him today I wonder? Jesus made friends with tax collectors and mixed with the rich as well as the poor and yet he spoke out against the love of money and told the rich young ruler he must sell all he had.
Confused? I am.
In some ways it seems he would be in all three places and yet he doesn’t fit comfortably into any of them. He was above all a radical, a loving radical who wanted the best for people, all people: freedom, justice, peace, healing, growth. Pointing people always in the direction of God, faith came from the very core of his being. In Johns Gospel (chap 12) Jesus admits to being troubled. He has the sort of conversation within himself that we can all recognise. “I’m really worried about this”, “Should I ask to be spared from it?’’, “But I know it’s the right thing to do”. “I’d better get on with it then”. How often do we have conversations like that within ourselves?
The question this month then is where do we stand? In the church, in the city, with the protesters? Or with Jesus in the awkward place?