BBC Radio 4:Rev Joel Edwards - 03/08/17


You are listening to a programmes from BBC Radio 4.

Have you heard the one about the priests and the pub?

7 men show up in a pub in Cardiff dressed as priests. The barman who is already on the alert for fancy dress parties asks them to leave. The only problem is that they really are priests who are celebrating a colleague’s ordination.

But it all ends well and the priests are treated to a complementary round.

Which all goes to show: sometimes you can judge a priest by his collar.

But the story also demonstrates just how easy it is for genuine people to be judged and dismissed by other people's reasonable assumptions, based on their own experiences.

The energy required to vet each person and treat them as a potential, genuine product takes effort. The default position is to be on your guard. Don't be taken for a ride. It's so much easier.

Encounters with unknown others are also demanding, because the real me is likely to have multiple identities. A priest in a tracksuit is still a priest.

In his poignant book, Identity and Violence, Amartya Sen suggests that, ‘the same person can be an American citizen, of Caribbean origin, with African ancestry, a Christian, a liberal, a woman, a vegetarian, or a long distance runner.” In fact Sen’s list is much longer but we get the point.

Human encounter is a constant conversation about who people think we are, and what we want them to know about us. And checking how others experience us doesn’t have to be a sign of personal insecurity.

Which is probably why Jesus paused one day to find out who other people thought he really was.

‘Who did people say I am?’ He asked his followers. And like the pub landlord, people identified Jesus according to their own assumptions, and came up with a pretty wild list of deceased celebrities. John the Baptist, Isaiah and Elijah.

So who do you think I am? He asked. “You,” declared Simon Peter “are the Messiah: the one and only Son of God.”

It turned out to be one of the most foundational statements for the Christian faith. And it shows what can come out of a conversation about who we are and who others think we might be.

But we shouldn’t be offended when people interrogate our persona. Sometimes it brings its own rewards.

From what I hear the 7 priests have an open invitation to return to the City Arms - although I suspect they won't always enjoy a free pint on the house.

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