Summary: The passsage is Luke 24:13-35 - the story of the diciples who meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus. The occassion was the 4th Sunday in Easter. The connection with Ronald McDonald was an article that had recently been published by a Diocesan heavyweight, enti

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I’ve made it a rule over the years never to discuss church politics stuff in a sermon.

Indeed, I try to avoid bringing up issues that are specifically churchy altogether, in a sermon especially - partly because I don’t think it’s appropriate to try to polarise people over issues that are contentious, but mainly because I just don’t think most of that stuff is relevant to us here.

I appreciate that many people in many churches do get caught up in these issues, but for the most part, I just can’t get excited about them at all! Can women preach? We worked out the answer to that one here ages ago, and frankly the answer is blatantly obvious. Can women preach? Well … some can and some can’t! Though of course our recent experience here has been, ‘Can They What? Oh Yeah!’

Why do nice, caring, and generally strong-minded people get caught up in these ridiculous issues? I’m not sure, but I think it’s always been like this in the church. We have a long history of being consistently obsessed with the wrong issues!

I’m told that when, in the early 19th century, the government of Brittain was locked in debate over whether to end the slave trade, the church was totally focused on the issue of what colour scarfs the priests should be wearing at the Eucharist. And I don’t think we’ve progressed very far since. I think on the whole that the issues that the institutional church obsesses over are generally completely out of touch, not only with what its members are really concerned about, but equally (and far more importantly) out of touch with what God is really concerned about!

So I don’t talk about internal church political issues … ever … except for today.

I am going to break my rule. Why? Because I can’t get over this article that I read earlier in the week - one that has winged its way to us straight from the ecclesiastical epicentre, entitled, “McDonald’s church is no bad thing” - an article that suggests that McDonald’s restaurants may indeed provide us with an appropriate organisational model for the church of the future!

Now I won’t mention the author’s name (though you can find out for yourself if you’re interested) and I won’t go into the minutiae of the article, though I will say, in the author’s defence, that his thesis is not simply that if you put enough money in marketing, people will swallow whatever crap you feed them.

Having said that, the title of the article and the graphic that goes with it - a pious Ronald McDonald in a posture of fervent prayer - itself says more than the words themselves could possibly say, for we all know what makes the McDonalds formula work - one word: ‘predictability’.

We know that whenever we go to a McDonalds restaurant, we will be able to buy the same burgers, packaged into the same McValue meals, with the same sugary drinks and the same fatty chips.

And we’re willing to turn a blind eye to the fact that the piece of cheese that was in there somewhere seems to be getting smaller year by year, and we’re ok about the low nutritional value of the food, and we’ll live with the fact that we’re supporting an organisation that uses non-union labour and upholds questionable work practices for we know what we’re getting, and we know that it will keep our children happy, and we know that the toilets will be clean.

And yes, this pattern of offering the same ‘predictable’, neatly-packaged, low-nutritional-value product at every venue evidently does seem to be attractive to a lot of churches nowadays, especially those that are keen to share in the McRiches that the fat-friendly clown seems to have on offer. But the problem is that this model just doesn’t fit too well with the Gospels, and not only because it’s greedy, money-grabbing, mindless and crap-dispensing, but even more so, I’d suggest, because of the very predictability of it all! For while there are a lot of characteristics you could attribute to Jesus as He is depicted in the New Testament, predictability would not seem to be one of them!

We struck this head-on on Easter Sunday, you will remember: ’He is not here!’

That was the triumphant proclamation with which we began our service a couple of weeks ago.

He is not here! It was the word given to the disciples at the tomb when they came looking for the dead body of Jesus. They thought they knew where to find Jesus, but they were wrong. He was not there. No one had predicted His movements! They knew where He had been, and they had an idea as to where He was heading, but as to where He was at that specific point in time, they had no idea!

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