Today as I write this I am sitting amongst a very mixed group of people.
They are young and old, fat, thin, some well educated and some who seem to have problems following very simple instructions. Some are arriving early, others arrive puffing and late. Some are well dressed, others look like they have slept all night in their clothes.
This is a group of people who are dealing with complex issues. They are talking about sex, theft, violence, fraud and benefit theft amongst other things.
No, this isn’t a report on our last PCC meeting, but a glimpse of what it is to be on Jury Service. It’s day two and already friendship groups are forming. Mostly we wait. Every now and then a group of us is called to a courtroom for possible selection. We come back, most of us unsure whether we should be pleased or relieved to have been chosen or not.
My most powerful memory this morning is of a couple of ordinary but very anxious looking people sitting in a courtroom dock. I have no idea what they might be accused of - we are not permitted to know. But they are looking anxiously at this group of strangers as we enter the court. They know that from amongst us will be those who will decide their future in a few days time. What might they be thinking? Do we look kind? Do we look judgemental? Or what? And we know nothing of them. Do they look like rapists or murderers or thieves? Well, no. But what does that kind of persons look like? Well, to be honest, the two groups look remarkably alike - and so we are.
As you read this we will be considering another such group of people. We shall, on Ash Wednesday reminded ourselves that we are all alike sinners. Of course we are not all guilty of serious crime, but we are all alike kidding ourselves if we say we have no sin. So it was in the time of Jesus. We shall be following Jesus on the road to Calvary. We shall look back and see his accusers and those who stood with him.
We shall recognise that though it was 2000 years ago, people are just the same. The crowd that followed Jesus and those who resented and accused him are just the same as those in the Preston Crown Court today. The Church teaches us that the image of Christ is present in every human being. Sometimes that image is shrivelled and diminished as in those who are cruel and full of pride. Sometimes that image shines out as in the generous act of Veronica in the Stations of the Cross. Our task as Christians is to recognise the loving Christ among us now.
We are to see him in one-another no matter what our estate.
As I look around this room today I must learn to see Jesus. I am to see him accused in the dock, I am to see him in those around me. This Lent, as we travel with Jesus, may we find Christ in others and others find him in us.
Canon Andrew Sage