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Vicar's Letter

Thursday 17th April, 2014 @ 4:58 pm

by Reverend Christopher Harrison | tags: ,

As most of us look forward to the Easter break it is easy to overlook Good Friday, but Rev’d Christopher Harrison suggests we all take some time to think about what it really means

Not so many years ago, it was much more difficult to ignore Good Friday than it is today. Shops were generally closed, and city centres were fairly quiet. Nowadays, however, one could be forgiven for not being aware that Good Friday is still a public holiday, as life in many parts of the centre of Nottingham carries on very much as usual.

It is encouraging, therefore, that when we mark Good Friday at St Peter’s with the three hour service of the cross, from noon to 3 pm, there always seem to be considerable numbers of people who find time to come and pray to God on this most sombre day of the Church’s year. In so much of life there is pressure to fill time with activity or noise; during the Service of the Cross, by contrast, we make a point of leaving space for silent prayer and reflection, to allow the full impact of the momentous Good Friday events to sink in. As we hear once again the account of Jesus’ path to the cross, we identify as closely as we can with his feelings of rejection, of fear, even his sense, at times, that he has been abandoned by everyone, including God. The spaces and silences in this extended devotional service enable a deep encounter to take place between Christ’s sufferings and our own. More importantly, they also lead us to think about, and even to be unsettled by, the sufferings of the many millions of people around the world, who are daily treading a way of the cross through no choice of their own.

In a different way, we also trace the way of the Cross through the musical portrayal of Jesus’ Passion at St Mary’s in the evening of Good Friday. Bach’s majestic and acutely poignant music lifts our hearts and minds heavenward, and we feel we are actually one with the very witnesses of Christ’s suffering and death almost two thousand years ago.

As we move through the Good Friday services, though, at the back of our minds is the knowledge that Easter Day will very soon be upon us; that suffering will be replaced by joy, and that despair will be turned into new hope. There is an inevitability about the victory of life over death, of the triumph of resurrection over the grave – and we know it. These are of course profound truths. They proclaim the eternal and inextinguishable love of God for all people, and they shout forth that even the most heinous of sins cannot separate humanity from God for ever. That is why we cry, ‘Christ is risen, he is risen indeed, Alleluia!’

We must not, however, allow our confidence in the resurrection, and in the triumph of goodness over suffering, to tempt us to turn aside from those who seem to be perpetually trapped in misery and pain, and who seem to have no way of escape. In spite of the economic recovery which is occurring in some parts of this country, there are still very many people whose lives are blighted by debt, by seemingly unending poverty, even by hunger – when they are desperate to find a way out, but simply cannot do so. Then there are all those, not least in cities like our own, who bear the constant burden of addictions of various kinds, or mental troubles for which not even the best of modern treatments has much of an effect. Loneliness, also, is said to be one of the greatest and most pernicious epidemics of modern times in this country, especially among the elderly and dependent.

During our Good Friday services, therefore, let us allow the space and the silence to incline our thoughts afresh to all such people, especially those in our midst, and those whom we see every day in the streets around us, if we have eyes to see them. We can’t necessarily solve all their problems, but we can be touched by their plight instead of allowing our hearts to be hardened. And if we can – just sometimes, maybe – go the extra mile, we will find that we are able to make a difference to the lives of even a few people - which is enormously precious in the sight of God.

A very happy and blessed Holy Week and Easter to all readers,

Christopher Harrison

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