On Sunday mornings at the church where I served as a curate a small group of familiar faces would gather in one corner, just as the service began. Mumbling their way through the hymns and hardly ever going forward for communion, or even a blessing, they knew that after the service everyone stayed on for coffee and biscuits. They always chose the nearest corner to the coffee urn, and as the last chords of the final hymn died away the biscuits would start to disappear.
Jesus once compared God to someone who, his invitations to a banquet having all been turned down by those for whom they were intended, then told his servants to bring in anyone they found on the streets or in the hedgerows. For me, that small group always brought that parable to life – here were not just characters in a story, but real people from the streets and hedgerows for whom free church coffee and biscuits might easily have been breakfast.
As I write, Easter is still a week away and once again, in church, we are thinking of what led up to Jesus’ crucifixion and that first Easter, and the parts played by those whom Jesus chose as his friends in what happened. They were not just characters in a story, but real people who, just like us, could get things wrong, fall out with each other and maybe even turn their backs on a friend at the worst possible time.
But Easter is about new beginnings. Convinced that he was risen from the dead, those same friends set about spreading the news that people still talk about today. It reminds us that God isn’t defeated by our failings, and doesn’t give up on us either.