On my [the Revd Steve Wild's] recent visit to the Liverpool District the Chair Revd Sheryl Anderson took me to our church in Toxteth, Princess Avenue. Outside this church is a thought provoking image of the risen Jesus. I remember driving past it years ago and thinking 'what ever is that?'
Seeing it this time I have perhaps more appreciation of modern sculpture than back then. The sculpture is titled is 'The Resurrection of Christ' and was made by Liverpool born sculptor Arthur Dooley who died in 1994. It is arresting on the plain brick wall of the church; an emaciated Jesus with a loin cloth and torn grave clothes is leaping out of the church in a cruciform shape but crossless. One could say it looks like a V for victory shape, very apt for resurrection.
As I stood and looked at this sculpture the face of Jesus looked to have a smile. I sing lustily 'Lo Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb.' In my mind I picture him smiling but not looking like this...but why not?
Sadly there are thousands in the world who look like this sculpture and Jesus relates to them too. It is known locally by Liverpudlians as the 'Black Christ'. Well Jesus was certainly not white and the framed print I grew up with in my Rochdale bedroom showed a white Jesus with children from around the world at his feet - I suppose it was slightly better than the one in my scout hut of the white Jesus with one hand outstretched and the other on the shoulder of a Boy Scout with half a globe in front of them and the words BRITISH EMPIRE on it!
Yikes, a black emaciated Jesus is more healthy than some of the patronising white images in the past.
But what is very powerful and moving to me as an evangelist is Jesus breaking out of the church and being in the community. Don't get me wrong I met the circuit team in Toxteth and what an impressive group they are, a number of excellent projects and as I walked in the building there were lots of young people of the community buzzing round.
This image is not of a tame domesticated Jesus - this is a victorious Lord who has overcome death and has good news for everyone, is ready to serve the Toxteth residents, to celebrate and weep with them.
Life within our churches is good and this year I've witnessed some of Methodism fit for purpose with amazing mission activities on our premises, but let's catch up with the risen Lord alive and at work outside the church.
One lady I met was an Air Traffic controller at Manchester International Airport, a responsible job, she said 'I couldn't do it without Christ with me.' In Truro last week I met a homeless chap who often sits on the back row of the Methodist Church, on greeting him I said I hadn't seen him for a while. His reply was 'well I didn't do it but I've been in prison - I wasn't alone He was with me' and he pointed to the sky.
Thank God there are loads of situations were We as the body of Christ break out and run with the risen Jesus and tune in to the work of the Holy Spirit - let's have more of it!
Yes I am inspired by this piece of sculpture; my photo of it has become the screen saver on my computer to remind me to look for the risen radical Lord I serve in unexpected places sharing love, comfort and peace.