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Reflection for the month

March

The public language of our God

Throughout this month, we travel on the road to Calvary with Jesus. We follow him on the road to Jerusalem, and into national, political, public debate and conflict.

In the words of our chair, Dr Rowan Williams, 'Holy Week...comes to gather us around the one true holy place of the Christian religion; Jesus himself, displayed to the world as the public language of our God, placarded on the history of human suffering that stretches along the roadside.

'This is a week for learning not management, bargaining and rule-keeping, but naked trust in that naked gift.'

Travelling the road to freedom,
who wants to travel the road with me?
Feted by noise and branches
and banners hanging from every tree;
cheered on by frenzied people,
puzzled by what they hear and see.
Travelling the road to freedom,
who wants to travel the road with me?

We see how following Jesus required his disciples to take a public stand; they had to expose their faith, bring their hopes and their failures out into the open. They could not be withdrawn and ascetic like the followers of John the Baptist, nor could they be scholars and theorists like the Pharisees.

  • Holy Week is a week for learning not management, bargaining and rule-keeping, but naked trust.'

They had to mix in strange, sometimes disreputable company; Jerusalem was physically and spiritually crowded with people who were suffering, angry, oppressed and excluded. It was often chaotic and frightening. And in the midst, Jesus; teaching, healing, weeping, translating personal encounters into public prophecy. The public language of our God:

Travelling the road to freedom,
who wants to travel the road with me?
Partnered by staunch supporters
who, come the dark, will turn and flee;
nourished by faith and patience,
neither of which is plain to see.
Travelling the road to freedom,
who wants to travel the road with me?

We see betrayal, arrest, judgement and condemnation. We see denial and abandonment, and fall silent as we remember our own infidelities. We follow the Way of the Cross at a distance, as so many have done through the ages in the long history of human suffering.

How visible, how public it is, a spectacle to be watched and commented on; as old as the hills and as new as the latest news from Syria or South Sudan.

But something different is happening now. This Jesus, 'in the days of his flesh' (Hebrews 5:7), as he is racked on the instrument of his death, distils all that is most human; all that is most personal, most intimate, most loving, and displays it to the world.

He turns all our understandings of power upside down. This is the public language of our God.

Travelling the road to freedom,
who wants to travel the road with me?
Tipping the scales of justice,
setting both minds and captives free;
suffering and yet forgiving,
even when my friends most disagree.
Travelling the road to freedom,
Who wants to travel the road with me?

'Travelling the road to freedom' is from John Bell and Graham Maule, Enemy of Apathy: Wild Goose Songs Volume 2, Wild Goose Publications, 1988

 

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