The Passion of St Matthew takes us on the journey with Jesus into Jerusalem, from the enthusiastic welcome he received, through to the people turning against him and then his trial, suffering and death. In this account we see how shallowness and celebrity worship meet with humility and sacrifice. We see too how the worst and most cruel aspects of our humanity encounter the grace and mercy of God.
This year we have the strangest Holy Week I have ever known. A month ago I would never have dreamed of celebrating it in the dining room with an online congregation and no one else present. We would not have chosen a time like this, but can we learn from it?
Among all the bad news of recent times there have been some very positive things too. For once it is not the rich, the powerful and the famous who are getting all the attention. Clapping the people who work for the NHS and all the carers and key workers is becoming something of a pattern for Thursday evenings. These are the people who might often be taken for granted unless we or our loved ones suddenly need them. Now it seems that many people do need their care and thank God that they are there for us.
This is a time that challenges our priorities. The message of the Scriptures contains a challenge for us too. What is most important in our lives: the worship of fame, money and possessions - or the acts of love, devotion and care that build us up as human beings? Jesus spoke truth to power and he wasn’t taken in by people’s shallow praise. He gave us an example of love and service that has continued to inspire people throughout history and in our own time too.
During Holy Week we hear of how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, taking on the kind of action that was normally reserved for the most menial servant. From Matthew’s gospel Ch 20: 28, Jesus said: “…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus turns our world view upside down. In him we see how humble service, rather than being something to be despised or taken for granted, is made noble and holy. Jesus, who was despised and rejected and then put to death, was raised to the heights of heaven and is a beacon of hope for all who look to him.
So for now our heroes are the people who are rushed off their feet in hospitals and care homes; the people who take the housebound to doctor’s appointments, fetch their shopping and their prescriptions; paramedics, ambulance drivers, police and the fire service; providers of public services; people who stack shelves in supermarkets and serve people. Often those people are hardly noticed and at times have to deal with abuse.
When all this is over, and I’m sure we all long for that, what will have changed? Will we still be taken in by the shallow things the media invites us to worship, or will we be focused on more important human values?
Christians do not worship a distant God, who is remote from our lives. In the face of the “Servant King” who is Jesus, we see the living God. May we never lose sight of his glory.
Keep Safe and Well