Things are really hotting up here election-wise aren’t they? A day rarely passes without a leaflet in the mailbox, a billboard scooting past on a trucks, or a knock at the door. There was a national prayer vigil on Wednesday, and have you received your very useful fridge magnet from a certain counsellor?
Growing up in a household with a trade unionist grandad and a militant mum, I was taught the importance of voting in every election from a very young age and I heard about the works of the Suffragette movement way before I could pronounce it.
In the UK, women peacefully campaigned for an equal right to vote for more than 5 decades, with no success, but in 1903 a group of feisty activists adopted a slogan that became their motto – deeds not words. They tried every which way of communicating through words – to no avail – so they began direct action. Some of the reports of what they did sound bad – arson, window smashing, criminal damage – and others sound hilarious – the arrest warrant for a woman found in the house of commons ‘in male attire, with a riding whip in her coat pocket’ was among my favourites. What they learned was that deeds were what changed things, not words. And it worked and, after many heroic deeds and some bloodshed, even death, women got the vote
This was super controversial at the turn of the last century but I’m not sure why because Jesus was already onto it 2000 years earlier…
‘How long will you keep us in suspense?’ the Jews asked Jesus… ‘If you are the messiah, tell us plainly’. They want to know the truth, and they want Jesus to tell them. They want a simple yes or no answer. Are you the messiah Jesus; yes, or no? and Jesus replies by saying, ‘I’ve told you and you don’t believe’. He says the works he does is all the proof they need – the works I do in my father’s name testify to me.
It’s like he’s saying, I can tell you if you want, but its way better to see. This isn’t about being told the answers and accepting it blindly. This is about way more than that. It’s about deeds not words … it’s like he’s saying, ‘I’ve told you and I can tell you again if you want, but it makes no difference if you don’t see my actions, believe and follow me. I can tell you, but you must connect the dots and let it impact you. Let it change you’.
Jesus’ deeds show beyond all reasonable doubt who he is. These people had seen him heal the sick, raise the dead, give sight to the blind, cast out demons, feed the hungry…they’ve seen all these things, and still, they’re not quite sure. Are you the one we are waiting for, or should we wait longer? Should we expect another? Tell us!
They’d been told, over and over!
But the gap between the brain and the heart is the biggest of all.
At some point we need that eureka moment where we go ‘ohhhh’. At some point we have to almost give in and say, ‘I’ve seen enough to think it might be proof’ and, as much as my brain is able to grasp it, I choose to believe.
And I think, as it was with those first disciples and those Jewish leaders, so it ever will be. The world is always waiting, always questioning, always wondering. What is true? What is real? And I wonder what the world, what our community, sees and hears from us, about us, in this place that offers any kind of answer to that question.
This week our Just Manna committee met together, and we heard about a woman who had lost custody of her child because they had become homeless. Within 36 hours we had managed to find her somewhere to stay and she was reunited with her baby and her immediate response was a text that said, ‘thanks so much for your help and prayers…I can’t explain how complete I feel’. We could have just prayed for her, but it was our deeds, that made the difference.
At the same meeting we agreed practical help for our dear friends released from detention and we asked ourselves ‘how can we support these guys more?’ and we thought maybe it’s housing or financial support or a bike to get around. Like, yeah, we can say we are here for you, and we love you, but what does that look like in deeds not words?
And I feel like this is what Jesus is talking about in this morning’s gospel passage; deeds, not words. The importance of doing transformational things that lead to relationship and belonging. We can say ‘I love you’ and that’s really nice but it means nothing unless we show that love in deeds not words.
For the mummy and her baby, this week, she saw the provision of a home and knew she was no longer alone, but this group of strangers have reached out and helped her, made her feel complete (to use her phrase), not only because that is the right thing to do when someone is in need but because we follow the one who is Love and told us to love likewise.
The Jewish leaders said ‘tell us plainly’ but Jesus’ response was – and still is – don’t just hear what I say but see what I do – deeds not words. And I feel like the world, even now, is asking that same question and is watching and waiting; watching to see if our deeds match our words.
I feel like our community is also asking ‘tell us plainly, is this real?’ Is God real? You speak a good game but show me what it means, show me what difference it makes.
So, we need to ask ourselves, what have we seen and known of Christ?
And what will we do so that others might know Him too? Amen.