John and I have just been to see the production of the musical “Made in Dagenham” in London. John is not a keen theatre-goer but this lively production managed to maintain his interest for a whole afternoon!
It’s the story of the women who worked at the Ford car plant in Dagenham in the 1960s. Rita O’Grady (a fictional character) leads the 1968 sewing machinists strike in protest against sexual discrimination, demanding equal pay. The strike is successful and leads to the Equal Pay Act of 1970. In her capacity as leader of the women’s group Rita meets the Secretary of State for Employment, Barbara Castle, who sings a powerful song about her aspirations for a fairer world. It’s stirring stuff!
The play also shows that Rita has to make sacrifices in order to pursue her campaign. Her commitment to the strike leads to financial pressures, tension within her family and strained relationships with some of her work colleagues.
Leadership in such situations demands sacrifice, and it takes a strong character to cope with such demands. At Easter time the Church focuses on the sacrifice that Jesus made; he displayed such commitment to God’s plan that it resulted in his death on the cross. In spite of this Jesus is often depicted as a quiet, gentle, almost insipid character. There are traditional hymns referring to him as “gentle Jesus, meek and mild”. Another hymn says “For ever on thy burdened heart a weight of sorrow hung; yet no ungentle, murmuring word escaped thy silent tongue”. Many people find it hard to believe that Jesus displayed anger or indignation. They don’t expect him to get excited, raise his voice or express displeasure.
The one example of Jesus’ anger which is often quoted is the Cleansing of the Temple (John2.13-15) when he drove out the money changers and animal dealers with a whip of cords. He is incensed by the injustice of the economic system which is supported by the temple authorities and which discriminated against the poor. There are other occasions when he speaks forcefully to the scribes and Pharisees, addressing them as hypocrites. Or times when he becomes indignant with the disciples for their lack of understanding. For Jesus, neutrality is not an option when confronted with injustice or indifference. The anger that Jesus displayed was not the brooding resentful anger that disturbs human relationships. His anger was rooted in love and justice.
The season of Easter encourages us to draw closer to God by building a relationship with Jesus. As we read the Bible and listen to the word of God in worship and prayer we gain a deeper understanding of what makes Jesus “tick”. This helps us to model his behaviour in our lives and respond as he would want us to when faced with the complexities of modern life. I hope that you will feel this deeper relationship with God as the Easter season continues over the coming weeks.