To respond as Jesus would, instinctively.


First aid training this morning.  Ministry Centre: 9.30 am.  Mmmm.

I’m taking singer-turned-paramedic Bobby Sherman at his word: “Take some time to learn first aid and CPR. It saves lives, and it works.”

Just to say, I wish I had had some hands-on training 30 years ago.

One of the bearers at a funeral at my previous church in Rochdale collapsed in the rain.  An older man, he had helped carry a heavy coffin to the very edge of our graveyard.

Two of us worked on him in the church porch, even though I think he died before he hit the ground.

I did the chest compression, wishing I knew what I was doing.  My GP friend Alan later reassured me that breaking some ribs is virtually inevitable.

His widow and family made a special journey from Blackpool to thank us.  ‘Thank us for what?’ I thought at the time.  And since then I have filed this memory at the very back of my mind.

But you never know.  And you need to be prepared.  For how often I have heard the phrase:  “Then the training kicks in.”

In situations of extreme stress, we don’t have the time, the opportunity even, to deliberate.  You rely on your reflexes.  Those somewhat-awkward encounters with a plastic head/torso suddenly become very useful.

One of the aims of following Jesus is to allow his Holy Spirit to embed Christian reflexes so that in situations of stress we do the right thing naturally.

So as the temple guards appear out of the night to arrest Jesus, the instinctive response of Peter was to draw his sword and in a futile gesture of force attack the high priest’s servant, cutting off Malchus’ ear.  That’s what you do, hit out.

Jesus’ prompt response was to heal, as Luke tells us  “But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.” (22:51),  That’s what Christians do at times of extreme stress, bless those who would harm us.

However, how does this Christian instinct embed itself in our brains?  Like our first aid class this morning, we train, we go through the routines until they become part of us.

Of course, it is going to be difficult, hard going.  Knowing what the right response is is one thing.  Actually doing it in situations of intense stress is something else.

It’s all in the preparation.

As soon as Jesus was commissioned by his Father through at his baptism by John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit sends him into the wilderness for hard testing.  There Jesus rehearses in his mind how he is going to accomplish the task ahead.

There he imagines the tests he is bound to face – the temptations to take the short cut, the appeal of the spectacular and the lure of worldly acclaim.

These were real temptations, they were always options open to him.  But when it came down to it, he was ready he had already gone over them in his head.  And because it took forty days he presumably went over them again and again.  In his mind he was rehearsing Messiahship.

Similarly just before his arrest by Malchus and his colleagues, Jesus takes time to pray in Gethsemane, “the place where olive oil is pressed.”  There he fights the battle beforehand in his mind so that when the guards appear he is ready.

That’s why the day by day discipline of spending time with God is so important.  What we used to call the Quiet Time.  It’s not just reading the Bible and leaving it at that.  It is giving Holy Spirit the opportunity to engage our imaginations.  Here we put into practice what are learning.

Part of this process is the deliberate decision to disown those actions where we have failed, even disobeyed.  We repent of our sins and as we own a new way of living, we seek to open up new neural pathways.

And that’s why small groups, even just two or three us of meeting in Jesus’ name gives him the opening to develop Christian reflexes.   Mutual encouragement, even mutual accountability.

Above all as a community of faith, as a church, we seek to encourage each other to respond to new, even unsettling, situations as Jesus himself would.

So the writer to the Hebrews urges his readers to keep at it, not to stop meeting together. “Keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes.”  (3:12).

So when you see someone collapse in front of us, we instinctively know what to do.  In Jesus’ name.