PALM SUNDAY: A WORTHY ONE TO FOLLOW?

 

The James Cracknell story is just amazing. Many of you will have seen him as a member of the winning Cambridge (sob) crew in last week’s Boat Race at the age of 46; admirable by any measure. Of course, this is but the latest of his magnificent exploits: an Olympic medalist, rowing the Atlantic, innumerable runs, bikings and challenges across continents. And a kind husband and father too. ‘Crackers’ (as he is known in the rowing world) is altogether admirable and a worthy man to follow. We meanwhile all wave from the sidelines.

 

Or not?

 

Crackers was involved in a horrific cycling accident crossing the USA coast to coast some eight years ago. At night the wing mirror of a lorry caught him on the back of the helmet. Although he survived James suffered horrific frontal lobe injury, the area of the brain (so the medics tell me) that controls personality.

 

After surgery his wife Bev was warned by the surgeons that he would be on ‘Planet James’ for quite a while. They were correct. His inner compulsions increased, his emotional ability was severely damaged, low anger levels became high, in short, he underwent a total personality change. He became ever more obsessed with training, in fact becoming a worst version of himself. Bev, in a heart-breaking article spoke of how she had a different husband for each 8 years of their 16-year marriage. The couple have now separated. In an interview next day, Crackers showed how he was unable to engage with what had happened. It is all so sad. Crackers is no longer admirable in the same way. We may still till wave from the sidelines, but I suspect not wish to follow him.

 

On that day we now celebrate as Palm Sunday, Jesus Christ appeared admirable to the Jerusalem mob. They knew him to be a great teacher and preacher, a wonderful story teller, kind and non-judgmental to human frailty. More, he seemed to speak for God. Even better, on that day he was clearly throwing his hat into the ring as the Messiah, the long expected Jewish leader who would lead them all to a new political freedom and religious purity. The crowd was very content to cheer and wave from the sidelines. True disciples followed along behind. But a few days later following him had become a very different matter. He too was no longer admired or thought worthy.

 

Christians over the years, as were heard St Paul tell us (Philippians 2) was in fact God incarnate, or Son of God as the Jews would describe it. Resurrected, he offers wonderful promises and hope in this life and the next. Yep let’s follow this admirable figure, not just wave from the sidelines. That’s what we celebrate today.

 

And you? Admiring? Waving from the sidelines? Falling in behind with the disciples? I hope so.

 

But what difference does that make in our lives? Did you see the wonderful pictures of Pope Francis kissing the feet of the warring generals from South Sudan in an effort to encourage them to talk to each other and find a way of moving forward together in peace? What a wonderful use of power at the top. (Perhaps we should invite him to do the same for the House of Commons!)

 

At the other end of the rankings, earlier this week I was asked to take a funeral service at the Crem for an old lady in her eighties who had been resident in a care home for many years. I was told the family wanted no contact and none would attend the service apart from two lovely care workers who had known her. Presumably there had been some major falling out ages ago.

 

Just before the service began, a dozen or so elderly infirm people emerged from the waiting room. The explained that they were Ivy’s brothers and sisters. They had been forbidden contact by someone and had not seen her for decades. Somehow, they had got wind of her service, and asked if they might attend and say goodbye to their beloved sister?

 

My brief was clear: to use every ounce of skill and kindness my long experience in the C/E to give them a Rolls-Royce service. By the end, they were smiling and so happy to have said farewell. I hope the one I follow was pleased too.

 

What might all this mean for you?