A reflection for the Tuesday of Holy Week
In countries across Europe exam boards have decided to cancel all school exams. In England this means that pupils will get teacher-assessed grades this year. There has been much controversy over the decision to cancel the exams, rather than postponing them, and the debate on how precisely teacher should assess their pupils is still on-going.
Some have mentioned that cancelling the exam was unfair: you cannot change the rules of a game this late on, so the argument goes. Pupils have a right to exam-assessed grades, as this is the goal to which they had worked. This comment made me think. Of course, it is not fair to change the goal posts at this late a stage. Most of us will remember the indignant feeling as children when our peers did exactly that: changing the rules of the game we were playing. However, we also have to admit that some situations require the rules to change, and we find ourselves in one of those situations.
For all of us, much of what we took for granted is no longer true. Our freedom of movement is restricted. We are no longer able to buy what we want, when we want. We cannot go to Church when we like, let alone worship together. We cannot give our young people the educational opportunities we would want them to have. And, maybe most difficultly, we cannot give everyone the medical treatment we would like them to have.
There are so many things that we are not able to do at the moment, that we have to adapt our rules and our ways of thinking. And that is incredibly difficult. How do we decide who gets the last box of fresh eggs? How do we decide who will be allowed to go to the university course they want next year? How do we decide who will get the last ventilator available?
I don’t know how to answer these questions, and I have a great deal of respect for those who need to take these decisions that will have an impact on all of us. However, what will definitely not help is to point out that it is unfair, that the rules cannot change: they simply have.
Luke’s Gospel this morning points us to the ways in which Jesus himself changed the rules, by turning the world upside-down. He says to his disciples: ‘the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves’. A little later in the passage, at the moment of his betrayal by Judas, we also read how he tells one of his followers to put away his sword, and how he heals the ear of one of the high priest’s slaves. The closer we draw to Good Friday, the more we see how Jesus’ life, death and resurrection changed the rules forever.
This leaves us to consider this morning how we respond to the challenge of change. Do we cross our arms and say ‘it is unfair’? Or do we allow the situation to act as a mirror to our individual behaviour and the ways our society works? Will we allow the light to work through the darkness, and see how not only the rules need to change, but we ourselves too.