Here hangs a man discarded, a scarecrow hoisted high, a nonsense pointing nowhere to all who hurry by.
Can such a clown of sorrows still bring a useful word when faith and hope seem phantoms and every hope absurd?
Yet here is help and comfort for lives by comfort bound, when drums of dazzling progress give strangely hollow sound:
Life, emptied of all meaning, drained out in bleak distress, can share in broken silence our deepest emptiness;
And love that freely entered the pit of life’s despair, can name our hidden darkness and suffer with us there.
Christ, in our darkness risen, help all who long for light to hold the hand of promise, till faith receives its sight.
There is only one version of this on line to Passion Chorale which you can hear here. You can hear the first verse set to Shrub End here.
St Luke 23: 44 – 49
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’ And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Today we stand as his friends and ‘acquaintances’, at a distance, watching. With 2000 years of separation it can be hard to see the view Luke places before us, but we are, perhaps, brought close by our own experiences of loss.
Are faith and hope absurd phantoms in the face of death and pain?
Is life emptied of all meaning, drained out by times of bleak distress?
Is there hope to be found during national and global injustices?
Wren’s hymn asks us to consider how we view this discarded man; as scarecrow, a nonsense, a clown?
Standing and watching this scene, viewed through our own lives of complex human suffering, we can be forgiven for descending to our own hidden depths as we suffer with him. We can be forgiven for seeing a discarded, hopeless nonsense with no hopeful word to say in our time.
We stand here as his friends, in the knowledge of what is to come.
From this place of darkness, the light of Christ burns still.
In this place, where we feel separated from God by our suffering, the curtain is torn in two.
He who seems like a clown, laughs in the face of hopeless death and dances with us in the potential of light-filled freedom.
Loving Christ, as we stand, watching, dwell with us in our suffering, hold us when we are overcome and find no hope, inspire us to stand as friends, with all who suffer, and fill us again, with the joy of your ever-shining light. Amen
The Rev’d Martin Knight is minister of St Paul’s URC, South Croydon and South Croydon United Church (Methodist/URC).
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