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Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter 2020

19th Apr 2020


 

Sermon for Easter 2     2020

 

 

“But these words are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”     John 20.

 

There is a great eagerness these days to speak of significant events which ought to leave a lasting legacy. The most famous was the plea which came out of the First World War that the remaining soldiers would return to ‘a land fit for heroes’. In this time of Coronavirus there are voices which already give expression to the kind of world which will emerge after the virus. With all the destruction to the economy and to livelihoods, President Macron of France believes that the coronavirus pandemic will lead to the transformation of capitalism — where there will be the opportunity for a new corporate morality to hold sway, but, he reminds us that “…leaders need to act with humility”. This might be wishful thinking but what is certain for now is that the world is navigating ‘unchartered waters’. We must hope and pray that any human crisis like this one has the capacity to hold within it the germ seeds for new understanding and the regeneration of new hope. Most are agreed that things can never be quite the same again. A good crisis can bring about great outcomes. But the legacy can only be made good by concerted human action with an understanding of the possibility and yet also the vulnerability of human existence.

 

These observations lie at the heart of the Easter Gospel. The crucifixion and death of Christ had been experienced by the disciples as the obliteration of their hopes. They made themselves a church not just of shut doors and windows but a church in terminal hiding, a beleaguered church nursing its grief. The Resurrection of Jesus from the tomb provides them with new hope and new direction, and deep joy. It is a joy that must be acted upon. Jesus life and hope has travelled through the locked doors and windows of their minds and hearts with its future providing promise “I am with you always” Matthew 28.20. In his first letter to Peter, Paul, writing less than 20 years after the resurrection describes this new life as “imperishable, undefiled and unfading”.

 

The recognition that ‘Doubting’ Thomas gives to the wounds of Christ makes him for Eastern Christians ‘Believing Thomas’ He acclaims Jesus as both Lord, and for the first recorded time, as God. Not just identifying but personalising his acclamation as ‘My Lord’ and My God’. He is the first example of a converted Christian and his conversion is one of the heart and is a conversion to God the Father’s action. It is also a conversion to a new way of life and action. A waking up to a new world of possibility.

 

Our readings this morning all point to this. In the Easter Sundays to come the Old Testament Reading is replaced by readings from the Acts of the Apostles, which trace the immediacy of the resurrection movement in the life of the very early church.  We  come face to face with the disciples of Christ who are now out in the open, and ready, and  outspoken, with their leader Peter, to proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus (which had happened for them only months before). This Resurrection they claim is radical and experienced in the immediacy of the present. . It was promised by King David of old and involves God’s own direct action in the here and the now. The crisis of faith brought about by the death of Jesus finds its outcome in Thomas’ passionate avowal that Jesus of Nazareth has now become Lord and is God.

 

And what of us? What of our ‘here and now’ as Christ’s Church? Resurrection faith is the one which is lived in the immediacy of the present moment and of present circumstances. At this present time of coronavirus this will mean that the time available for us is a time which is more useless time than we are accustomed to. Many across the nation will be watching much more TV, many will find the long spells of inactivity frustrating and difficult, may will  turn in on themselves and for many this unproductive existence will affect their sense of well-being and even sanity. But for some, perhaps for many who tread a spiritual path, this may be a time of enrichment. Perhaps when things were ‘normal’ we took so much for granted. In our current confined situations life need not atrophy. In the useless time we can rise joyfully and readily to its many challenges.. In my own existence, I now awake, in the middle of King’s Cross to bird song. Though I feel awkward as to what now constitutes the so-called ‘working day’ my useless activity is not as useless as it seems and there are opportunities for lengthy conversations with friends and parishoners that before Coronavirus I was ‘too busy’ to make. I am more aware, too of those lives known to me which in the current set of circumstances, lie vulnerable to the elements. Curiously but obviously these are those who cannot fathom or manage the internet. They may find themselves excluded. This is a time when the hierarchy of important persons in our society has been turned upside down, with healthcare and NHS personnel coming top of the list of those who matter most and whose work exists within our nation’s mind’s eye as selfless, brave and totally invaluable.

 

In all of this comes the message which Christ proffers to Thomas. That he is one of God’s chosen. Jesus holds out his wounded hands. He shows Thomas the wound at his side. “Do not doubt but believe”. The true legacy of the Resurrection is the one which is given in Christ and which today instructs us to open our minds and hearts without prejudice and the fallacies of apathy and self-doubt to the life that is already being given in Jesus Christ, risen from the dead – “the outcome of your faith and the salvation of your souls”

 

Claiming and reclaiming our chosenness is the great spiritual battle of our lives, for in a competitive, power hungry and manipulative world, it is all too easy to forget that God has always known us, and God has chosen us – eve when we slide into self-doubt and self-rejection. Knowing that we have been and are known by God, and that we have been chosen by God, is the first thing we need to claim as we behold what we are and become what we receive in Him.

 

Henri Nouwen..

 



Easter Message in a Time of Coronavirus (Love from us all at Holy Cross Church)

12th Apr 2020


EASTER MESSAGE FROM THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES

AND FROM HOLY CROSS CHURCH CROMER STREET LONDON WC1H 8JU

 

 

 Dear sisters and brothers in the Crucified and Risen Lord,

 

As the days of celebrating Easter approach, we would like to convey to you the traditional Christian greeting, which affirms the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and its powerful liberating message, bringing joy and hope to the world, overcoming fear and uncertainty—

 

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

 

This year, we observe Easter in a challenging context amid painful situations. The COVID- 19 pandemic, which has affected the whole world, is also affecting the way Easter will be celebrated. To protect our own lives and those of others, we cannot fill the streets with processions, nor will churches resound with hymns and liturgies, expressing and sharing our Easter joy with one another. Instead, we will share the mystery of Easter and meet the Risen Lord in our homes, but through online presence we will nonetheless still gather and in joy and hope proclaim the Easter message as best we can! Many of our people are experiencing fear and uncertainty, as well as trauma, separation, isolation, loss of members or even death in their families or in their church communities.

 

Yet, despite these traumatic and painful situations, the message of Easter continues to be a joyful one of courage and hope.

 

The first experience of the disciples with the Risen Lord occurred in similar circumstances. Out of fear and to protect their lives, Jesus’ disciples gathered in a room, behind closed doors. And there the Risen Christ came among them, bringing his peace. As they were startled and terrified, “He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened?... See that it is I myself.’” (Luke 24:37-39).

 

The Risen Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). Easter is a reminder and encouragement that God in Christ continues to love and care for the whole world, overcoming death with life, conquering fear and uncertainty with hope.

 

To those who may be tempted to explain the present situation as an expression of God’s punishment and wrath, the Easter message conveys that our God is a loving God, the source of life, not death, the God of life and love “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." (John 3:16-17).

 

Dear sisters and brothers, throughout the centuries, the Easter greeting ”Christ is risen!” has always infused Christians with the power and courage to confront death, destruction, oppression end enslavement, fear, doubt and uncertainty. As we are confronted today with the challenges of COVID-19, we assure you that in these days we are united with you in prayers and in affirming together our common faith and hope in the Risen Lord: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:55, 57).

 

 

 

 

Sent with love and prayers from Fr Christopher Cawrse,

Parish Priest,

Holy Cross Church, Cromer Street, London WC1H 8JU.

 

 



Sermon for Easter Morning 2020

12th Apr 2020


 

SERMON FOR EASTER MORNING 2020

 

 

As I got up this morning the sun was shining through the large windows of mine that overlook Argyle Square. All was golden silence and I could hear the birds sing. As I said a little ‘Alleluya!” it was tinged with the anxiety and concern I felt for my world at this time. After all, the last time I had experienced such silence was on the day of 7/7 some fifteen years ago now, when hectic King’s Cross felt such silence. An eerie silence because it was silence that had a powerful and terrible backdrop.

 

In the past Holy Week it has seemed like no other Holy Week, and the suffering, trial, death and burial of our Lord Jesus now seems to speak to our present condition more powerfully than before. The Passion, Death and Resurrection Christ  as lies at the core of our Christian Faith. The Church traces this pattern and makes it our own. So much so that we make an acclamation in the middle of the Mass which is couched in the past, present and future tense: “Christ HAS died, Christ IS Risen, Christ WILL come again. In these three terse statements of faith lie the Christian belief and trust in the saving reality of Christ’s death, in the joy of the resurrection in the ever present, and in the life of Christ to come, which is our present and future hope.

 

A Holy Week like no other, almost a weird one... but as a friend of mine has said “Actually, no weirder than the first Holy Week!" Rather than allow the grand dramas of Holy Week to unfold in a straight line as a straight, two dimensional narrative, we are to be surprised and startled by their immediacy. We keep company with the followers of Jesus locked away in their houses for fear of reprisal following the Crucifixion of Jesus. This was their initial response to the Resurrection. Mary Magdalene had been the first brave witness to express the fact of the Resurrection joyfully. She ran to Peter and the other disciples full of that string joy. A woman, for God’s sake, in a male dominated world! Most of the men were fearful and consumed with bewilderment and doubt, and they shut themselves into their homes. Luke tells us that they were ‘startled and terrified’. When the resurrected Christ comes to them he knows this already “Why are you frightened?....See it is I myself) Luke 24.37-39. The presence of Christ is enough to overcome doubt and fear, and this will hold true for those diciples and for us.

 

This Easter, more than ever, it behoves the Church to look to Christ as its guardian and guide and to maintain the confident joy and the glad heart to serve him in one another and to proclaim a message of understanding, cheerful hope when a great deal of hope now seems to lie beyond the world’s reach.

 

And so, surveying the present scene, we will point to the three  ‘green shoots’; the signs of resurrection even in the midst of apocalyptic scenes, like the New York mass burial of 5,000 dead and the frightening prospects for the poor of overcrowded slums, the starving and the vulnerable.

 

The first of these resurrectional 'green shoots', as for 7/7 is the presence of so many good and dedicated  ‘worker bees’ whose bravery and dedication is ensuring adequate healthcare for the many who have the virus. Their work, at the heart of the crucible, even at risk to their own lives is truly awesome.

 

The second of these resurrectional 'green shoots' is the ability of people across the world to adapt and to change and to seek to continue to provide services and sustain a sense of normalcy in an abnormal time. Many have come out of retirement, have volunteered in their masses and have ‘put themselves out’ in the care of others.

 

The third of the resurrectional 'green shoots' is the one in which  our planet earth, seen from satellite, at this time of inactivity and industrial shut down, is looking more green and this time of industrial inactivity has become a time of respite for our poor earth and a chance to grab a little rest and to restore its own damaged fibres..This is a time when our own less frantic routines might serve to find us understanding those things which fill us with light and health. Whe we slow down a bit, perhaps we can find healing, also. Perhaps this experience, couched neagtively as 'lock down' might also find us in a kind of ceel which invites a more contemplative existence?

 

The Easter greeting ”Christ is risen!” has always infused Christians with the power and courage to confront death, destruction, oppression end enslavement, fear, doubt and uncertainty. As we are confronted today with the challenges of COVID-19, we pray that in these days The Church my be united with the rest of our world in prayer and in affirming together our common faith and hope in the Risen Lord: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:55, 57).

 

Easter love to you where and as you are on this great day.

 

May the Lord visit you, pass through the walls and windows and doors of your home

and give you his peace and joy.  Amen. Alleluya.

 

 

Christ has died!

Christ is Risen!

Christ will come again!

 

 

 

 

 

 



Sermon for The Easter Liturgy 2020

11th Apr 2020


Sermon for Easter Liturgy 2020

 

 

Now is eternal life

If risen with Christ we stand,

In him to life reborn,

And holden in his hand;

No more we fear death's ancient dread

If Christ arisen fromm the dead.

 

For God the living God,

Stopped down to man's estate,

By death destroying death,

Christ opened wide life's gate:

He lives, who died; he reigns on high;

Who lives in him shall never die.

 

Unfathomed love divine,

Reign thou within my heart;

From thee nor depth nor height,

Nor life nor death can part;

Our life is hid with God in thee,

Now and through all eternity.

 


 

G W Briggs (1875-1959)

Sermon for Easter Liturgy 2020

 

‘What a difference a day makes’ we might say as we come to this glorious Easter time. Within the space of three days, everything for the Christian Church has changed. And in the passing of this brief period of time - of Holy Week and now of Easter, the Church has endured the pain of Christ’s suffering and death in the deep solemnity of Passiontide and now all is suddenly transformed. We proclaim new life to our troubled world. Our joyful cry is “Alleluya!”  And all this has been encapsulated into one single week; the saving events into three days, and now the day of Resurrection comes tonight to startle and amaze us and carry us yet forward. The Alleluya cry is one which this year assumes a new cadence as it both acknowledges and takes in the threatening experience of the Coronavirus.

 

The days of Lent and Passiontide cannot be experienced separately but together as one stream, leading inexorably toward their resurrection fulfilment.  The life that Easter makes possible, is now brought to us as a delicate flame, The Light of the Risen Christ is proclaimed as “Christ our Light”, appearing first as light in darkness and then acknowledged and honored in the glorious Easter song ‘The Exsultet’ as our everlasting life..

 

Then there is the Vigil of Old Testament Readings for the recapitulation of our Christian Faith; the tracing of our spiritual origins. It begins with The Creation Narrative in Genesis, and then proceeds to the Exodus and Abraham and then the promise of the coming of the One who will promise us the God not our of religious duty alone, but his being from the communication of one heart speaking to another. This Easter Liturgy will be a profound celebration of the sacramental life that God has granted us through the blessing of the baptismal waters and of the renewal of our baptismal vows. We are to discover Easter in the outpouring of transformative grace. We come to celebrate the Eucharist anew, warmed and inspired by the presence of the great Easter candle, which is with us as ‘Christ our Light’.

 

May this flame be found still burning

by the Morning Star:

the one Morning Star who never sets,

Christ your Son,

who, coming back from death's domain,

has shed his peaceful light on humanity,

and lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Amen.

 

The Church allows us to inhabit this time of intense contemplation with the profound awareness of its deeper meaning. In this we are inhabiting God’s time. We experience again the saving events of our Salvation history as we traverse the long road of experience that led to the coming of Christ. We become those same witnesses to the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ who rushed to the tomb. We become the ones who must now proclaim and share this message of life and hope in the discovery that he has risen and that life as we know it is now changed and transformed for good. This is especially important at the present time. Christians always have a joyful and a hopeful message to proclaim.

 

The contrary movement is negative. It is the ’emptying out’ of the true Easter, and ‘the getting and spending’ in which ‘we lay waste our lives’. We see a society which no longer memorizes the Christian calendar ‘by heart.  ‘On the third day he rose again from the dead’ we say in the Creed. We must proclaim this truth as in the Exsultet, the song of praise to the Easter candle, that Christian Faith may exist as a flame bravely burning, especially at a time of fear and apparent retreat.

 

By the strangest coincidence the peak stage of the Coronavirus pandemic has happened during the world’s Christian Holy Week. In the past week the Church has been experiencing the saving events of our salvation in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It has done so through the lens which is the coronavirus pandemic. In this great challenge, we know that Jesus has entered into the experience of what it is like to live and die as a human being. He has involved himself with us and our human condition to the uttermost. He has shown us God’s love for our world in human form. This message of love, delivered through the crucible of pain and suffering and offered up for us on the Cross tells us that he is with us always. He is with us in the coronavirus pandemic. He is with us in the days to come. As he proclaims his suffering, death and Resurrection so we proclaim the resurrection hope for our world. Resurrection – not as a way out of the devastation but as hope in the present as our anxious world charters its way through the devastation. Death will not have the last word, even though each human death is significant and terrible for those who mourn. We stubbornly live the resurrection hope which we proclaim this Easter which will not substitute the Christian hope for what has been called ‘blind faith’ or grudging stoicism.

 

We value the Christian manner of time-keeping as it draws us more surely into Holy Easter, proceeding out of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not by accident, but in and through God’s own kairos, his time. Even now, in the midst of crisis, our world needs more than ever to allow its heart to beat in time with God’s heart. Morethan ever our world needs its own confident and joyful ‘Alleluya’, even and especially in the midst of crisis.

 

 

Amen. 

 

 

 

 

 

New English Hymnal

‘What a difference a day makes’ we might say as we come to this glorious Easter time. Within the space of three days, everything for the Christian Church has changed. And in the passing of this brief period of time - of Holy Week and now of Easter, the Church has endured the pain of Christ’s suffering and death in the deep solemnity of Passiontide and now all is suddenly transformed. We proclaim new life to our troubled world. Our joyful cry is “Alleluya!”  And all this has been encapsulated into one single week; the saving events into three days, and now the day of Resurrection comes tonight to startle and amaze us and carry us yet forward. The Alleluya cry is one which this year assumes a new cadence as it both acknowledges and takes in the threatening experience of the Coronavirus.

 

The days of Lent and Passiontide cannot be experienced separately but together as one stream, leading inexorably toward their resurrection fulfilment.  The life that Easter makes possible, is now brought to us as a delicate flame, The Light of the Risen Christ is proclaimed as “Christ our Light”, appearing first as light in darkness and then acknowledged and honored in the glorious Easter song ‘The Exsultet’ as our everlasting life..

 

Then there is the Vigil of Old Testament Readings for the recapitulation of our Christian Faith; the tracing of our spiritual origins. It begins with The Creation Narrative in Genesis, and then proceeds to the Exodus and Abraham and then the promise of the coming of the One who will promise us the God not our of religious duty alone, but his being from the communication of one heart speaking to another. This Easter Liturgy will be a profound celebration of the sacramental life that God has granted us through the blessing of the baptismal waters and of the renewal of our baptismal vows. We are to discover Easter in the outpouring of transformative grace. We come to celebrate the Eucharist anew, warmed and inspired by the presence of the great Easter candle, which is with us as ‘Christ our Light’.

 

May this flame be found still burning

by the Morning Star:

the one Morning Star who never sets,

Christ your Son,

who, coming back from death's domain,

has shed his peaceful light on humanity,

and lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Amen.

 

The Church allows us to inhabit this time of intense contemplation with the profound awareness of its deeper meaning. In this we are inhabiting God’s time. We experience again the saving events of our Salvation history as we traverse the long road of experience that led to the coming of Christ. We become those same witnesses to the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ who rushed to the tomb. We become the ones who must now proclaim and share this message of life and hope in the discovery that he has risen and that life as we know it is now changed and transformed for good. This is especially important at the present time. Christians always have a joyful and a hopeful message to proclaim.

 

The contrary movement is negative. It is the ’emptying out’ of the true Easter, and ‘the getting and spending’ in which ‘we lay waste our lives’. We see a society which no longer memorizes the Christian calendar ‘by heart.  ‘On the third day he rose again from the dead’ we say in the Creed. We must proclaim this truth as in the Exsultet, the song of praise to the Easter candle, that Christian Faith may exist as a flame bravely burning, especially at a time of fear and apparent retreat.

 

By the strangest coincidence the peak stage of the Coronavirus pandemic has happened during the world’s Christian Holy Week. In the past week the Church has been experiencing the saving events of our salvation in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It has done so through the lens which is the coronavirus pandemic. In this great challenge, we know that Jesus has entered into the experience of what it is like to live and die as a human being. He has involved himself with us and our human condition to the uttermost. He has shown us God’s love for our world in human form. This message of love, delivered through the crucible of pain and suffering and offered up for us on the Cross tells us that he is with us always. He is with us in the coronavirus pandemic. He is with us in the days to come. As he proclaims his suffering, death and Resurrection so we proclaim the resurrection hope for our world. Resurrection – not as a way out of the devastation but as hope in the present as our anxious world charters its way through the devastation. Death will not have the last word, even though each human death is significant and terrible for those who mourn. We stubbornly live the resurrection hope which we proclaim this Easter which will not substitute the Christian hope for what has been called ‘blind faith’ or grudging stoicism.

 

We value the Christian manner of time-keeping as it draws us more surely into Holy Easter, proceeding out of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not by accident, but in and through God’s own kairos, his time. Even now, in the midst of crisis, our world needs more than ever to allow its heart to beat in time with God’s heart. Morethan ever our world needs its own confident and joyful ‘Alleluya’, even and especially in the midst of crisis.

 

 

Amen. 

 

 

 

 

 



Sermon for Good Friday 2020

10th Apr 2020


Good Friday 2020

 

“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”  Matthew 27.45-46 and Psalm 22.1

 

 

The Gospel writer Matthew has Jesus cry out in utter desolation. This cry issues out of the mouth of the dying Christ as his last words.  So different from the more controlled words of Luke’s ‘Into thy hands I commend my Spirit’; and John’s direct ‘It is finished’. Matthew’s cry of dereliction is the cry concentrated into the one final, terrible utterance. This cry is the cry of all who have ever cried. When we see or hear someone crying from a place deep within we cannot fail to be moved. We recognise that sense of human frailty which is the lot of us all. We all cope with a sense of life as light and shadow, and of our own unknowing and of Shakespeare’s  “… thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to…” Life is lived as a kind of Cross because in order to see life in its true light we have to admit the shadow, too. Our inward cry of longing is the cry that life can be both wonderful and terrible. We come to know the futility of living life as though it were a personal possession. It can truly be lived only in communion with the one who is its giver, God alone. Only then can we live lives which are not in vain, but it must mean that, in God, we will tend to live provisionally.

 

Jesus’ cry of dereliction is disturbing. At the moment of encroaching death He feels utterly forsaken and alone. And the question he puts before God is “Why have you left me?” “Why aren’t you there anymore?” The cry of the suffering one. The cry of the one who feels his suffering has not been heeded and for which there is no explanation. Good Friday sees the worldwide Church stand still today as it takes in the full meaning of Christ’s exposure to these elements. The Cross lands upon this world’s understanding with a loud thud. Our churches are stripped down, statues and images remain covered, and everything is laid bare. We observe not merely the dramatization of an event that happened 2,000 years ago, but are confronted in the present with a Cross which challenges us to the roots of our being.

 

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  Hebrews 4.12

 

The Cross lays bare in us what was once laid bare in Christ. And this ‘laying bare’ hinges on the fact of our lives as God sees them.  In his Son Jesus Christ, we are given to reflect upon life as a dying of deaths, and the one great dying that Christian Faith asks of us is the dying to self, and especially to the self which would make God in our own image. The dereliction happens not to be God’s but ours, too. Too often we seek and we do not find God because we have made him in our image. We witness the many substitutes which modern culture puts in place, including the simple fact that of the 50 different designs on the Easter Cards sold at Waitrose, none feature either the Cross or the tomb, instead all is bathed in daffodils and coloured in pale yellows, blues and greens, featuring chicks and bunnies and speckled eggs. It would seem that the Cross and the Tomb are no longer good sellers. In a similar vein, ‘Game of Thrones’ introduces the onlooker to an escapist mix of the heroic, the romantic, the violent, the fantastic and the cruel and this takes us away from the Cross as it proclaims the very this worldly, questioning and yet truth telling mystery which is God.

 

In former times, it was common to speak of a person as ‘God-fearing’. This did not speak of an individual cowering under the influence of a tyrant, but one who acknowledged the God who ‘seeks us out and knows us’ the God whose love divines the truth about us and our existence. He is to be obeyed not because this has been forced out of us but because this obedience forms the full measure of what must remain truthful for our lives. God is our proper balance and compass. Christian Faith has not given us a holiday from the path we must tread in life, with all it contains for good or ill. Rather it has heightened the sense in which a belief in God exists as a revelation and an open wound. It is only The Cross (capital ‘T’, capital ‘C’) which heals, because in it lies the truth about us and our existence. Only in communion with God can the true purposes of our life be revealed to us. For in acknowledgement of the living God comes also the acknowledgement of the need to cry to the one who will hear us. The cry comes from the heart. It cries out for the God, the Holy One, who is our Way, our Truth and Our Life. As the baby cries as it emerges from the womb so too we are never far from that crying out at the being born into a life like ours, even if the cry is stifled and subconscious. Jesus’ cry of dereliction takes up all our own cries and in Him they are nailed to the Cross, the place of what one Archbishop has called ‘Crucifixion Christianity’.

 

 

The Spanish Mystic, John of the Cross reminds us that

 

“…we too must have our Cross as our beloved had his Cross until he died the death of love…”

 

 

The Cross of Christ is borne in so many ways by so many people. And they emit their own cry of dereliction. One woman used to regularly telephone me. She was a depressive. She would phone to ask me to continue to pray for her. The phone call always took the same form : it could even be scripted: “Would you pray for my depression to go away?” “Would you please pray for my survival?”  The request was always gentle and courteous and the same call made in regular intervals of ten days or so. It ended like this once “Thank you for your prayers and may I wish you a very Happy Easter? Goodbye” and then the ‘phone clicks and she was gone again. In this terse exchange there emerged a deep and sharing trust between us, for when the calls ended came a shared silence, a deep intake of breath and time to take in the depth of what she was saying. Hers are one of the many human crosses which cannot be avoided or discarded but which must be held in the love of God as a prayer of the heart.

 

The Cross is being borne by this woman and shown forth by a painter, Terry Duffy, whose contemporary work, ‘Victim, No Resurrection?’ once hung above the altar at St Martins-in the Fields. It is a thoroughly challenging and disturbing work which is both a crucifix and also a window onto a violent world in which the real crucifix still stands. It is a work which depicts victims of suffering whose cross is perpetual and whose hurts have no seeming redress or end. All these reflect the lives of those who, like the Christ before them, are nailed to crosses and whose cries of dereliction go apparently unheeded… ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’  Duffy’s Cross has travelled from New York and was exhibited at Auschwitz and is a living testament to the power of the Cross to bridge the divide between hope and despair.

 

Jesus’ cry is not the cry of desperation. It is a cry that must be heard as part of a dialogue with the Father. It is a cry that finalises the death-throws that they may be transformed into Resurrection life. It does this because it keeps in tension the willing self-offering unto death with the operation of the divine will. For the Gospel writer Matthew there is no immediate answer as to why God has temporarily forsaken his Son. But not all questions, least of all this one, have immediate answers. The God of the Cross as for the God of Job gives no immediate answer. God is silent. But he has not forsaken his Son. As Jesus utters his final cry of dereliction the salvation he wins for us is already being made. His cry is part of a divine exchange which makes possible what one Pope has called a “radical evolutionary leap” in which our existence is placed on a new and Christ centred trajectory.  

The crucified Christ, honoured and adored in this Good Friday Liturgy, stands for the cry of the one who longs for a reconciliation between God and hhumankind. It is centered upon something that happened, the nailing of Jesus Christ to the Cross for his death. For many of his adversaries this might achieve forever the obliteration from of the one who had been acclaimed as The Son of God, the Messiah. But it was not to be. The judgement, the punishing death and the final breath would not bring an end to him. Even his own last words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” are taken up into the heart of the Father. Nothing in the evolution of God’s grace, no moment, no prayer, no good deed is ever wasted least of all this one. It is all to be gathered up. The cry of dereliction is to be heard by the Father after all. For this is only the first day. On the third day all will be changed forever.



 

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