This is the one day of the year I wish I was a vegetarian. It’s a problem for me sitting at Sunday lunch eating my roast meat because it puts me in mind of just what it is to be a sheep. Being a sheep is all about the slaughter. I don’t like to think of Jesus as the Good Shepherd because, of course, then I’m a sheep and however well shepherded I might be I know it’s all to keep me fit and fat for the table. In the paintings the Good Shepherd is always carrying the lamb tenderly close to his heart but Sunday lunch reminds me that all the same it is a lamb led to the slaughter.
The symbol of the Passover lamb only makes it worse. The slaughter becomes sacrifice. Give the sheep a brain for a moment and wonder whether it would come quietly, whether it would be a willing sacrifice, and what it would think of the butcher who cuts its throat in worship.
May 7th, 2006
There are two things going on here – the promise of life and the shock of its asking price.
A promise of life – but it’s more than about just being alive – it’s about having life in you. Do you ever feel that, inside? That you are alive, against the odds, breathing, beating, fragile, amazing. ‘Eternal life’ never captures that for me, it suggests life after death, suggests something preserved, suggests living on in some way forever, non-stop, endlessly. It makes me hope it’s not eternally a wet Bank Holiday weekend in Morecambe.
But it’s on offer, eternal life, and the offer makes me question what there is about my life I’d want to see extended and lived out for eternity. It begins to make me wonder about the quality of my life, about what in my life is worth the living, worth the loving.
And that’s what the phrase is really all about – eternal life is translator’s shorthand for the life of the age to come: the life of the age to come, the life of the kingdom, the life of the age of the messiah, the time when all those prophecies we hear in advent are at last here and in place – when justice and mercy met, when the banquet of fine wines is laid, when the lion lies down with the lamb, when there’s no more dying and no more crying. That’s what’s on offer here – not some endless, everlasting life we can have if we are very good and wait patiently – but the life of the kingdom now, here, today. A quality of life. A glorious life to have within you. Now. Alive.
May 5th, 2006