Have you ever seen, or heard, Rowan Atkinson’s sketch about Hell? In this, the comedian plays the part of the devil and welcomes newcomers to hell, directing various types of people into different groups. Through humour he thereby pokes fun at our stereotypes, not least English stereotypes, and challenges us to think again about who we regard as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘in’ or ‘out’, in the eyes of God.
On the third day he (Jesus Christ) rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
‘He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead’ – what does this mean? It is ringing language, isn’t it? Yet it is very strong theological, mythic, or picture, language. It is not easy to understand, even though it is an expression of that deep assurance at the heart of the Christian Faith: that, despite much present appearances, ultimately the love of God in Jesus Christ is in charge and all that belongs to love will be vindicated in the end. That is not quite the message of Rowan Atkinson’s comedy sketch, is it? For God, in Jesus Christ, takes us beyond ordinary human judgement into the ultimate, and even more surprising, reality of eternal compassion…