By the time you read this the polling booths will have closed, and we will know the hue and colour of our local political masters for the next four years, for good or ill. So do I have a ‘go to’ response when I open the door and find before me a beaming local candidate complete with local entourage assuring me that local issues are their priority, and promise without a hint of embarrassment that they will do things differently, things that affect my locality and work for real people like me…blah, blah, blah? So at election time in particular we become used to hearing from people who want to get us on their side. Well, how can I not then promise my vote to all who knock on my door? No time for political apathy. Get interested.
The genius film director John Ford once said in an interview that to attract people’s interest in one of his Westerns all you needed was a stranger riding into town at full gallop, disturbing the peace of the settlement, no-one knows who the stranger is, where he is from and why he is in such a hurry, and life is never the same again. Strangers can be unsettling and it can take a while to be accepted into a community no matter how long they stay and seek approval. And when it comes to elections I guess we tend to vote – assuming most of us do take the trouble to vote – for those whom we believe we can trust to do the right thing, even though the right thing may not always be the most comfortable thing. After all we are hardly likely to place our trust in someone we know nothing about.
So who is this stranger who quite literally rides into town on Palm Sunday and makes those who had much to lose feel very very uneasy? Despite the adulation of Palm Sunday Jesus is the one who became the stranger as he was spurned by his own people. However, this stranger in our midst is not in fact no stranger at all. Those who did accept Him heard in His voice the voice of authenticity, because in His short active public ministry He paid close attention to the people whom He encountered day in and day out: healing, showing compassion, caring, forgiving and loving. No strings attached. There is no disguise, no pretence, no ‘perjury in his mouth’ as the letter of Peter tells us. John assures us with the words that he puts into the mouth of this good shepherd: ‘the sheep that belong to me listen to my voice, I know them and they follow me…..they will never be lost.’ Jesus was on the hustings if you like for about three short years and how did it end? Yes with the ignominy of the cross. But we are, as we know, an Easter people!