‘Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes; shine through the gloom and point me to the skies’. (Henry Francis Lyte)
This morning I stood silently rehearsing these lines as Ian played ‘Eventide’, the familiar tune for the hymn ‘Abide with Me’. In front of me, I’m sure, others were doing likewise. Unable to sing, (another COVID induced constraint) I found myself focussing more on the words than I might normally do; listening as the music expressed what I was silently reading; listening, too, to my own thoughts.
It has been a year now since we entered this era of COVID inspired restrictions; a year in which our most basic human freedoms have been constrained; a year in which suffering, loss and death have held centre stage in our communal life as never before experienced in my lifetime. It has been, for many, the year of the cross.
‘Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes’. The cross was intended not just as a means of execution, but as a form of ritual humiliation; a statement of power. It was certainly not intended as a sign of hope. As they watched him die, Jesus’ disciples would have shared the fear and humiliation; together with a sense of hopelessness and loss. ‘It is finished. Where can we go now?’ Earthly power is demonstrated on Good Friday. How could the disciples have known that two days later God’s power would trump anything Rome can offer?
From a sign of defeat, the cross became a sign of triumph, a reminder that beyond the gloom ‘heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;’ a message of hope as true and as needed today as it ever has been. …….. but that’s Easter. We must be patient; wait a little longer. Meanwhile in trust we can pray, ‘In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.’
Rev Philip Payne
21st March 2021
The Pew Sheet for 21st March can be found here