By Pastor Ralph J. Mineo
There’s a fascinating poem by Geoffrey Studdert-Kennedy, written in 1927. It’s about Jesus going to two places, first to Jerusalem, and then to modern-day Birmingham, England. The first stanza is about what happened when Jesus went to Jerusalem. “They hanged him on a tree. They drove great nails through his hands and feet. They crowned him with a crown of thorns.”
The second stanza is about a trip Jesus made to a modern-day town (we might “translate” the poem to add our towns in place of Birmingham, England). The first line of the second stanza is quite powerful: “When Jesus came to Birmingham, they simply passed Him by.”
The author is comparing modern-day apathy to those who crucified Jesus. Many today are wondering if such apathy is becoming more and more prevalent. I’m certainly not in a position to judge whether people today are ignoring Jesus, though I suspect many are.
Many, many people are saying that they follow Jesus, that they are spiritual, but don’t belong to a church. Many people reject “organized religion,” though I personally believe that “organized religion” was invented by God in the Old Testament and Jesus himself affirmed the need for “organized church” in the New Testament. Of course Jesus spoke against blatant hypocrisy in “organized religion.” So we need to avoid such hypocrisy, without avoiding this “invention” of God.
I really think Studdert-Kennedy got it right. His poem isn’t about going to church (important as I think that is). It’s about not passing Jesus by! We need to take care not to ignore Jesus, his teachings, and his sacrifice for us.
The third stanza of the poem gives the response of Jesus to the apathy the poem speaks of: “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” That’s Jesus! Deeply forgiving! Completely compassionate! Dying with love on his heart!
The question for us today (and for ANY day) is this: what is our response to the sacrificial love of Jesus? Each of us will have a different answer to this question, but to believe in Jesus means to hear that question, answer it, and follow it through.
I hope and pray that you, dear reader, will experience some of the infinite moments when Jesus comes into our daily lives. I also hope and pray that you’ll respond to his presence, his gifts, his love.
Don’t pass Jesus by! The Good News is that Jesus will NEVER, EVER pass YOU by!