Over a cup of tea this week I idly flicked through my Facebook feed to see what was going on amongst the lives of my friends. Caught up with the wedding of an old-school friend, promoted the film on Friday, talked games with some friends who share my hobbies and resisted succumbing to the inevitable adverts. Then I caught an image of another old-school friend, which I thought had been taken some 30 years ago when we were at school together, although something wasn’t quite right. Scrolling a little further there was another, only this time he looked older, not just older than the school boy, but older than I imagined him looking now. The final shot gave the game away. This was of him, or rather of her, a female version of my male friend. A little confusing but not enough to prevent a smile. So, what was going on? He’d discovered one of these smartphone apps that takes your photo and automatically (to my mind magically) manipulates it to change your appearance.
As I should have been writing this, it got me thinking about Jesus. What would a shot of him look like as a boy and as an old man? How about as a woman? The quick and simple theological answer would be just that same, after all as Hebrews tells us, Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8) although this of course refers to his character, not his appearance. As a Christian I find this consistency and permanence in Jesus to be a great comfort, especially at times when life is challenging and I need something to hold onto. Jesus always loves, is always righteous, always just, and always merciful. But as I said, this is a simple answer; the truth is a little more complicated than that. Although Jesus’ character never changes, he is always changing, meeting us through his Spirit. This is one of the great strengths of the Gospel; God is beyond our comprehension in so many ways and so Jesus meets us where we are, presenting himself in ways that we can understand and respond to – that’s part of the reason for the incarnation, Jesus becoming one of us. The Apostle Paul recognised that. He followed suit saying,
‘19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law… 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.’ (1 Cor. 9:19-23)
Makes me wonder, how do we need to present ourselves to help those in our communities grasp the story of God’s compassion and invitation?
So, did I download the app and have a go? Of course I did! The results were quite impressive if more than a little disturbing. There I was sitting in the Manse as a boy again (although not quite enough hair adorning my head). Next I was my Dad. And then a woman who looked a little like a cross between myself and my sister. And did I pass these on to Alison to be included alongside this? Of course not! You’ll have to use your imagination…*
Church Newsletter Article, 30.04.17
*Unless you’re viewing this on the website!