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At the Cross

Reverend Robert Wright Sub-Dean and Canon of Westminster

Friday, 14th April 2006

Today we spend some time at the foot of the Cross, at the time when Our Lord was crucified. Here we are faced with the unavoidable fact of Jesus' suffering, his agony and his death. For the Cross stands at the centre of Christianity. There could have been many other symbols but the cross is the Christian symbol.

Those who want to be followers of our Lord are invited to deny themselves, take up their cross, follow Jesus, and lose their lives. There are no bargains or cheap offers here. This is the stark reality.

For many the cross is a scandal and an insult. But, for Christians it is inescapable. Indeed, we find our Lord Jesus Christ praying to the Father, asking that God's name may be glorified through his own coming death, using that remarkable word, "glory". We sing that great hymn, "In the cross of Christ I glory." But how can we find the glory of God in such a ghastly and gruesome event as a crucifixion - the most brutal, degrading and cruel way known to 1st Century man of killing someone

Who is this God? Could God, all-powerful, omnipotent, the creator of all things, not have avoided such a terrible occurrence?

The God whom we worship has chosen to become frail and vulnerable, totally helpless, and to give himself to us as the babe of Bethlehem, the symbol of supreme love. There we see him, defenceless and completely dependent upon what we will do to him. That is the challenge of the divine Father-hood: not a challenge of power, not a challenge of awesome sovereignty, of a crushing majesty. But the challenge of a love that is so great that it will stop at nothing to demonstrate love for us and to challenge us to love in return.

So we have Merton's phrase that I have used as a title for this service: God my God, God whom I meet in darkness.

In the Gospels we hear how the disciples were horrified by what Jesus said and, indeed we know that they deserted him at the end. This is not surprising for we know that the Jews believed that the Messiah's God-given destiny was the exact opposite of what Jesus foretold for himself, and what he now suffers. It was only in the light of subsequent events that the disciples came to realise that Jesus' death was the greatest of all victories.

Through the Resurrection, they came to understand that only a crucified Messiah could make known to us the full extent of God's love for us, and throw open the gates of His kingdom.

But we are left with the problem of the Cross and what it means for us in our daily lives. As he died on the cross Jesus said, "It is accomplished!" - it is fulfilled! - the cross is the ultimate fulfilment of the work which the Father has given Jesus to do; it is the ultimate revelation of His love. So, on this Good Friday, as we approach the hour of his death, I pray that we may see our call to take up our cross in the same light.

"Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all".
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