Anne Currie
17th March 2019
99p Jesus

I can’t even remember what I was in the shop for… I’m not a great browser of charity shops. I tend to go in when I’m hunting for something specific… usually for Messy Church or some other church activity… so I guess that’s why I was there in the first place.

Just glancing along the shelves when something just seemed to catch me eye, almost as if the object in question was wriggling around the shelf, trying to attract my attention, but not be noticed by anyone else. “Pssst… over here I’ve been waiting for you!”

So of course, … I had to go over and investigate, and there, sitting on the shelf a bit apart from all the other bits of china, glass and assorted brick a brac you find in such places, was Jesus.

“O hello,” I said, “What are you doing here?”

You’ll be relieved to know that the object didn’t answer, and I hadn’t asked my question out aloud.

But it was Jesus, here he is, a plastic icon, brought from some holy site and then sent off to the Charity Shop, the owner having no real use for it. It’s still in its original wrapper, and popped onto a shelf, all for the bargain price of 99p.

And of course, I had to have him… no idea what I would do, and he’s sat in my study until the readings today brought him back into my mind. For I felt that he had to go with me, and I with him.

My 99p Jesus… but I wonder does that make him any less valuable than priceless?

And that made me think about the value and price we put upon our relationship with God and of course Jesus.

For relationships are valuable in the extreme. When they break down sorrow and anger follow. Look around the world as see the consequences of relationships broken, abandoned and undervalued.

Abram’s relationship with God is truly priceless. We meet him today when he and his wife were still Abram and Sarai… not yet rename Abraham and Sarah by God.

Conversations between Abram and God are always worth listening to. Abram is always upfront with God, he talks almost as an equal but never forgets that God is God… and faithfully does as he is commanded, even to the brink of sacrificing his own son. The very existence of said son which is the subject of todays conversation between God and Abram.

God is speaking to Abram in a vision, God loves Abram and assures him of his protection and that he will reward him for his faithfulness. But Abram needs a son, he has no heir, but a slave born into his household. It’s the one thing that he really, really wants… and God hasn’t so far seen fit to bless them with children. Abram and Sarai are getting on so just when will God see his way to granting this?

God assures Abram that the slave will not be his heir, that he will have offspring to inherit and not only that… Abrams descendants will be as numerous as the stars that he could see in the sky…

That might sound a lot, but did you know that the total number of stars you can see in a clear dark sky is less than 10,000? Compared to the estimated total number of stars that are observable by huge telescopes which is about a billion trillion!

Abram believed the Lord and the Lord reckoned Abram to be righteous.

But their conversation doesn’t finish there…

Abram I brought you out of the land of Ur to possess this land… Abram, slightly doubtful once again “But how am I to know that I shall possess it?

And then we have this strange and somewhat gory ritual between God and Abram with the halved creatures left on the ground for night to fall… Abram is sent into a deep sleep and surrounded by deep darkness God himself in the form of a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passes between the pieces. This is God sealing the covenant, the promise to Abram of the land that he will possess and populate with his descendants.

The ritual described is one like others used at that time… the idea being that if one of the parties broke the covenant made at the time, then they would suffer the same fate as the creatures here had.

God is creating once again… firstly with Adam the world and all living creatures were breathed into being… then with Abram God is bringing into being his people… this story of the origins of the Abrahamic line is not just one that tells about the past but is also a story of the future.

Abrams story seems to underpin all that comes after, including Jesus’ story. Through journeys, callings and covenants.

God called Abram out of Ur to journey with him in a participant in God’s story.

The God reveals himself to Moses and calls him out of Egypt, to journey further with God and his people.

Jesus calls people out of the place where they are to journey onward, continuing God’s narrative.

Looking forward to the Easter story we see the echoes of God’s great Covenant with Abram…

The tearing in half of the temple veil, the division of Jesus’ clothes, the breaking up and harrowing of hell… God passes through sin and death.

Our relationship stories through the centuries with God are not like a train, one truck following after another, each one separated from the next… the whole thing is many layered and piled high, bit like a trifle where the layers are distinct but blend and bleed into one another because none of us are isolated in our own lives and times… what we do is handed down to and affects the next generation and so on.

Jesus knew that the story would go on without him… he knew that he had his work to finish but that his part in the narrative would lead him inexorably to the cross and that it would finish in Jerusalem. And he mourned the culture that oppressed prophets and tellers of the truth.

Reading the text from Luke I wonder where he was standing when he spoke these words. When we visited the Holy Land, we held a service on the Mount of Olives overlooking the city of Jerusalem… these days much spread out and higher, due to the layers of buildings, one on top of another over the millennia. But it’s still possible to stretch out your arms as you stand on the side of the valley and encircle the city… like a hen opens her wings to gather in her brood. To pray for the city that nestles in your arms… I wonder if Jesus did the same.

There is no doubt that sometimes there is a price to pay for our relationship with God. And we cannot help but think of Christians both past and present who have paid with their lives for their faith. And how can we not pray for and have compassion with and mourn for all those lives lost in Christchurch during the week. Ordinary people, praying to God in their Mosques. Killed because they were Muslim. Our hearts go out to them, the victims and their families and friends.

I sit and gaze upon my 99p Jesus… he’s covered in Gold paint and slotted into a plastic holder that’s been sprayed with flock to look like velvet. But what he represents to me and others is the shape of God who loves us and that value is actually priceless.

Genesis 15.1-12, 17-18
Luke 13.31-end