Good Friday, 10th April 2020 The three hours that Jesus hung on the Cross are a profound mystery that is right at the heart of our faith. In one sense, very little happened in those three hours. It was a time of waiting, of helplessness, of vulnerability. After the whirlwind activity of his ministry - teaching, healing, stirring up a storm of controversy wherever he went - and the shocking brutality of his betrayal and trial, there are these three hours where everything, with Jesus, hangs in suspension. He cannot move, he can hardly speak, and those who love him are powerless to do anything except to be there with him and wait. And yet, for Christians, these are three hours that changed the world - three hours that demonstrated that even in the extremes of pain and suffering, in death itself, God is with us, and that there is no experience where his forgiving, healing, transforming love cannot reach us. There is nothing in all creation, as St Paul testified, that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. One of my favourite spiritual writers is Michael Mayne, who was formerly Dean of Westminster. At one stage in his life he became ill with ME. Overnight, from being a busy parish priest, he suddenly found himself confined to bed and scarcely able to move. It was a year before he began to recover, and later he wrote a book about that experience called 'A Year Lost and Found'. In it he wrote this, If I were to sum up in a sentence why I am a Christian, I would say that it is because I believe in the Passion of Christ and the compassion of God - passion meaning to suffer, compassion meaning to suffer alongside. I see and experience a world which has pain and suffering at its centre; I believe in a God who loves each of us beyond our imagining; and in a gospel which brings the two together in a place called Calvary. Today is an opportunity for us to stand in that place. What I am suggesting as a devotional exercise is very simple. Often, we sing hymns without paying attention to the words. So I invite you to take one - or both - of the two hymns that follow and to read them slowly, verse by verse, keeping silence between the verses and allowing the words to lead you into prayer. May God bless you as you stand at the foot of the Cross. When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ, my God: all the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood. See from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingling down: did e'er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown? Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all. Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
My song is love unknown, my Saviour's love to me, love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be. O who am I, that for my sake, my Lord should take frail flesh and die? He came from his blest throne, salvation to bestow; but sin made blind, and none the longed-for Christ would know. But O, my friend, my friend indeed, who at my need his life did spend! Sometimes they strew his way, and his sweet praises sing; resounding all the day hosannas to their King; then 'Crucify!' is all their breath, and for his death they thirst and cry. Why, what hath my Lord done? What makes this rage and spite? He made the lame to run, he gave the blind their sight. Sweet injuries! Yet they at these themselves displease, and 'gainst him rise. They rise, and needs will have my dear Lord made away; a murderer they save, the Prince of Life they slay. Yet cheerful he to suffering goes, that he his foes from thence might free. Here might I stay and sing, no story so divine; never was love, dear King, never was grief like thine. This is my friend in whose sweet praise I all my days could gladly spend.
Samuel Crossman (c.1624-1684)