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Passage of scripture: Matthew 9.35-10.8
The comedian Harry Enfield had a character who regularly appeared on his TV sketch show called ‘Mr You-don’t-want-to-do-it-like-that’! Each week, wearing his flat cap and with his annoying, whiney voice Mr You-don’t-want-to-do-it-like-that would be espousing his wisdom to people who didn’t want to hear it, on parking, football, politics, flower arranging, basically anything and everything – he was one of those annoying people who always knows best. If you have a few spare moments you can find sketches of him on You Tube, but please wait until the service is over to have a look!
I thought of Mr You-don’t-want-to-do-it-like-that when I was reflecting on our gospel this morning and read ‘When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ Matthew 9.36. In other words, the people needed some help and some guidance. They needed leadership.
Who would be a leader of anyone or anything today? Napoleon apparently referred to the British as ‘a nation of shopkeepers’ I think he was wrong. What we are is a nation of ‘Mr You-don’t-want-to-do-it-like-thats’. I am not just thinking about politicians, I am thinking of anyone who leads a business, committee, council, school or church today – they all receive the same treatment and are bombarded by critics who are basically saying, ‘you don’t want to do it like that! Everyone seems to know better than the person actually making the hard decisions. Perhaps it was ever thus and we are just more aware of it because of new efficient ways of communicating?
I have been scratching my head this week to try and think of leaders who escape the ‘you-don’t-want-to-do-it-like-that’ brigade. The only person who comes close is the Queen, but then I remembered the criticism she received around the time of Princess Diana’s death. Then, not too surprisingly, I thought about Jesus, the Good Shepherd, surely no one would have the temerity to do a ‘you-don’t-want-to-do-it-like-that’ on Jesus? In Matthew 16 Jesus told his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem to suffer, to die and to rise again on the third day. Peter’s response was, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ I am sure that most of you will remember that Jesus responded to this with a robust and somewhat harsh, ‘‘Get behind me, Satan! ….’
Rather worryingly I think we all have a tendency to be Mr You-don’t-want-to-do-it-like-that with Jesus. Not openly, sometimes not even consciously, but because the leadership of Jesus is, for most of us, tied up with how we read scripture, the church we go to, the preachers we listen to, the theologians we read and the way we pray – we can all end up creating the Jesus we want to follow, the Jesus who will guide us to the place we think we want to go.
We have become so used to being ‘Mr-you-don’t-want-to-do-it-like-that’s’ that we think it’s fine to just go the way we want. We are so besotted these days with doing what we like, ticking or giving a ‘thumbs up’ to on social media, that the thought of doing something we don’t want to do, or going somewhere we don’t want to go, is anathema. But the point is that following Jesus is not easy and Jesus will lead us to places we do not want to go and challenge us to do things we do not want to do. Following Jesus does not fit comfortably into our ‘like’, ‘tick’, ‘thumbs up’ world.
When we succumb to the temptation of being ‘Mr You-don’t-want-to-do-it-like-that’ with Jesus the problem is that we have a very limited vision and are drawn always to self-interest, whereas Jesus has a vision of the Kingdom of God for all people, and in order for us to reach the Kingdom of God we sometimes have to sacrifice our own self-interest, our own ego, our own ‘likes’, our own desire to be seen to be doing or saying what others might judge is the ‘right thing’.
So, where does this lead us? If we are the harassed and helpless sheep, how do we know when we are following Jesus, our shepherd, or just doing what we want to do? The answer is, that we never really know, but if we are spending time in reflective silence and in prayer, if we are reading our bibles carefully and prayerfully, if we are being drawn to do things which are difficult and challenging, if we are acting in ways that the world is saying to us, ‘you don’t want to do it like that’, then there is a good chance that we are following Jesus.
Following Jesus, our Good Shepherd is not all about ‘me’, it is all about the kingdom of God. We are called to entrust ourselves to the Good Shepherd and not just do our own thing …
‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
…….. Jesus, I am more than happy for you to do it like that ………
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