The Rector writes: When I was a parish priest in Boston, the walk of witness on Good Friday was always a very special part of the day. The Salvation Army Band played as we stopped at stations around the town. I always recall one lady asking if the band could play, Away in a Manger. ‘Wrong season’, someone shouted out.
Before I moved to Boston, I was seven years in inner-city Leicester and the even bigger feature of Good Friday was the dramatic re-enactment of the Passion in the midst of the city’s famous market going on at full flourish. With shopkeepers shouting their trade, we wound through the stalls to the place where Jesus was hung on the cross, to the sound of, ‘Pound a bowl. Anything here for a pound’.
I found myself wanting to shout, ‘Is it nothing to you who pass by?’ as Jesus was strung up around assorted fruit and veg. People were going about their business, laughing, shouting, bantering, talking on their mobiles, as the actor playing Jesus breathed his last. But then I realised how realistic it was. It must have been pretty much the same at the time. Like the poet W H Auden reminding us that suffering goes on whilst someone is eating or opening a window.
Paul speaks of the cross as ‘folly to the Greeks’ and standing amongst so many people left entirely unmoved brings home that truth. But we go on rightly telling passers-by of a message that has the power to transform. For almost everything that has been thrown at Jesus in those last moments – betrayal, rejection, denial, pain, loneliness, fear, death itself – is not something far from humanity but exactly what humanity is about. Jesus lives our lives and faces all that humans suffer. Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy wrote in one of his great wartime poems, From that moment I never saw a battlefield as anything but a crucifix. From that moment I have never seen the world as anything but a crucifix. Can anyone be uninterested in what we have re-enacted when we see what our world is like; the waste and tragedy of war, our wonderful world in its sad complexity. Every battleground becomes indeed a crucifix. All alike, every race, every age are caught up in the darkness of the world.
This Holy Week as we carry the cross, we carry the world in our hearts. The world a crucifix. But we shall look upon the cross with wonder, both for its mysterious power and for its proclamation of the unswerving love of God for every one of us, for in the depths of Good Friday there is the wonderful hint of something beyond the cross, a cry of desolation but also a cry of triumph. This is not then end. It is but the beginning. There lies hope for everyone, and the glorious triumph of Easter awaits us just around the corner.