Frequently in the headlines, for all the wrong reasons; and name-checked, somewhat too lazily, by the Media at any eruption anywhere of the social ills common to the multicultural inner-city; the Jerusalem Estate had become a national byword for trouble.
The last time the local MP visited, rioting had ensued. And that had left the government with a problem they had to respond to, in a decisive manner…But to parachute-in the Home Secretary would be seen as an admission that, for all their talk of being Tough On Crime, Tough On The Causes Of Crime, they had lost grip of the situation; lost the Law And Order debate. The PM summoned the unfortunate MP: he would have to go back. He’d have, of course, the PM’s public backing – every confidence; standing by my man – of course; but, if he were to screw up again, that would – you do understand – be the end of his political career: do I make myself clear?
The MP returned to his constituency, and made his visit. The police presence on the streets was visibly raised – some would say, heavy-handed. He drove through in a big car, complete with police outriders – more in keeping with the visit of a senior cabinet minister, or member of the royal family.
Jesus read about it the next morning in the papers, over breakfast. Then he sent two of his mates to fetch him a car: a new one, just delivered by the dealership to a regular bloke who lived on the edge of the Estate – he hadn’t even driven it yet. Jesus was going joy-riding.
Somehow the neighbours realised what was behind Jesus’ actions. Not dissing them, but identifying with them. Parodying the Official Visit. Not bringing the neighbourhood down; but celebrating it. Even the guy whose car was chosen knew he’d get it back without a scratch.
So Jesus set off, driving through the Estate, windows down, radio turned up high – loud enough to bother the police, now back down to normal numbers, with not enough back-up to risk making an arrest – waving at passers-by as he went. Word spread. People came out of their houses. The atmosphere among the crowd remained good-natured throughout; but a fair degree of vandalism to street furniture was later reported, as they celebrated somewhat enthusiastically (several traffic cones were liberated; that sort of thing).
Later Jesus returned the car, unscratched, to its owner; and went out for a curry with his mates.
(Some years later the government decided to bulldoze the Estate and relocate the community. The police had to evict whole streets of families from their homes.)
And Jesus asked, “How ought my Church relate to the wider community? As those arriving to gift her patronage, and demanding the appropriate respect; or fully identifying with the locals, even at the risk of appearing foolish?”
[Archives: here is what I wrote last Palm Sunday]
Lent , Palm Sunday , April Fool