The latest in the BBC 2 series ‘Rev’ broadcast on Easter Monday was Religious Broadcasting of the most surprising kind.
Monday night’s episode saw the downtrodden sinful vicar in a struggling inner-city parish which the diocese wants to close is put in to a disciplinary process for kissing the Head Teacher of the Church School. Ha! Ha! But it was not the sort of joke that begins ‘have you heard the one about the vicar and school-mistress?’
I lost count of the references to the last week in the life of Jesus – betrayal, jealousy, envy, hand-washing, denial, cross-carrying – all ending up on a green hill not so far away with a view of the City and a surprise appearance of God joining in with a rendition of ‘The Lord of the Dance’. This was a passion play for the 21st Century.
Humour carried the viewer to a place we were not prepared for. Such humour is not the enemy of religion. Confident religion can stand up to innuendo and satire. Humour can expose what is hidden and go to the heart of things.
The laughter and the wry chuckle takes us into what is an exploration of sadness and poignancy. It can carry their burden in a way that enables the viewer to laugh together and then pause quietly over the disturbing wisdom that has been revealed.
This was a Christ crucified outside the ‘temple’s’ walls. But this temple was a church building on the fast track to de-consecration so it can be sold for its commercial value. “Judas lives” is the message. God forbid that the Church books do not balance. Or that the Church and its vicar were in a place where it does not wish to be (or want to pay the price).
It will be interesting to see where the story-line now goes – maybe towards a fresh expression of church – or starting it all from scratch?
It also has to be said that without a knowledge of what Jesus experienced in his last days many of the inferences in the episode to that time in his life would have gone unnoticed.
In a society where too often he is seen as no more than an icon of a private club.
Yet in the end does that matter? After all, the elements of Jesus’ last week exist in all our lives and different societies. And it is the unrecognised but active God in the midst of it all who will be our Redeemer with us and for us.