Reflection on racism
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” Mark 1:16-20
“It’s been a shambles.” Phil Walker, editor of Wisden’s cricket magazine.
How appropriate it was that Phil Walker used the word shambles to describe the handling of the row about racism at Headingley, the home of Yorkshire County Cricket Club in Leeds. Shambles is one of the most famous streets in York, originally an open-air slaughterhouse where animals were butchered and waste, blood and bones were thrown into a channel running down the middle of the street. Nowadays, Shambles is a much more pleasant place with shops and buildings overhanging the cobbled street but the hooks and shelves of its history can still be seen and the word has now come to mean anything messy, chaotic or destructive. How appropriate, then, that it should be used of the unaddressed racism row that has now caused such chaos in its county cricket and led to the withdrawal of both matches and sponsors from the club.
Nor is this specific to Yorkshire as other clubs are also facing similar allegations and the England and Wales Cricket Board itself faces criticism of being too slow to take action. It also involves the women’s game and appropriate language with Salma Bi saying, “I was twelfth man in so many games.” As the first British Muslim woman to play at county level cricket, the irony of her still being described as male reminded me of my days as one of the first women to be ordained when I was called Fr. Christopher by those who struggled to come to terms with change in the Church of England!
Change can be hard to accept or promote, which is why the words of Jesus have such astounding consequences in the Gospel today. When he tells Simon and Andrew to follow him, they leave their nets ‘at once’ (v18) and so do James and John, who even abandon their father Zebedee in a boat with hired men to follow Jesus. Perhaps they had all got to know one another beforehand but all four fishermen immediately leave their nets, families and livelihoods although Jesus tells them that they will now fish for
people. Their experience will be useful – but what did their relatives make of them dropping everything to follow him? Was this a surprise or agreed? How did they manage without them? Mark doesn’t tell his readers but it’s clear that the ministry of Jesus is not something he chooses to do on his own and for which he needs the involvement of others. ”Follow me,” he says to the disciples then and to us today.
Amidst the complexity of life today, there are many other voices also calling us to follow their example, leadership or actions. In situations that become shambolic, chaos may seem to prevail and it can be a bloody business, wounding hearts and minds as well as bodies. But if change is to be effective, hopeful and not just tokenistic, the challenge and call is to respond together and as individuals to make a difference for good where we can. Whose voice will we hear and follow?
With my prayers; pob bendith,