I don’t know about you – but I do feel the telly is rubbish at the moment! It was therefore a delight a few weeks back to watch a programme that truly engaged me for a whole two hours. It was about the annual competition
held by the metropolitan opera in New York to find the best young singers in the United States. As you can imagine this is a highly prestigious award and competition is fierce. The programme picked up when the finalists
from across the states meet up in the vast opera house itself and prepare for their trial debut on stage.
Well, needless to say, there are many tears and tribulations on the way until the few awards are dished out a fortnight later at the end of a gala evening. However, one singer stood out. He was large African American
with superb voice and bubbly personality. We all wanted him to win – and he did. This then was just reward for his years of privations including giving up college and working in a burger bar just to afford to develop his outstanding talent. Yet when the credits rolled and each of the winners successes in the following year were revealed, this 26-year old man’s achievements was strangely thin. The last of all screens told the awful truth. For, this young and outstanding opera star of the future died of cancer shortly after his first night.
Here then is a crucifixion – a crucifixion worth thinking about in this week of crucifixion.
How then do we cope with crucifixions?
How then do we make sense of as Paul had it: He became as humans are even unto death on the cross?
One way, is that of the rather smug gentlemen who debated on the radio last week. Now they were trying to make sense of the Astronomer Royal accepting the Temple Prize to look into quote – spirituality – unquote. And the paradox for them was how could an eminent scientist give any credence to religion; a human activity that was against rationality – that there was no evidence for – that defied logic. As result they agreed with another speaker I heard who claimed that the universe – and therefore life – was entirely random. A conclusion she went to admit bizzarely – as comforting.
Yet surely the idea of a casino-like world complete with randomized life events is not comforting. In fact, surely it is no way to cope with crucifixions.
Another way to deal with crucifixions I heard of during the ordination of my student who will shortly depart for his ministry in army chaplaincy. During that service, an army chaplain spoke movingly of his discussions
with troops just returned from Afghanistan. These young men – at the peak of their youthful sense of immortality – had seen friends killed and maimed by bomb and the bullet. They themselves had feared their death
and their lifetime disablement and their inability to have children before going into battle. Who then did they turn too – not some online actuary calculating the odds. No – they invariably asked their padre to pray with them
and to pray for them. Here then is another way to face crucifixion – here then is a way to cope with apparent randomness of life – here then is a way to find a friend in an apparently cold & indifferent universe.
For, as the Philippians were to learn, it was God, who was beyond their logic, that raised Christ up. It was God, who was beyond their experience, who gave him a name to mark him in history. It was indeed God who is beyond smug and chuckling rationality that let him conquer not just heaven and earth but the realms of death. Moreover, this conquest was not just for himself but to all who look to him through fear to be kept safe in crucifixion.
So if at the moment you a frightened of a crucifixion; if you are appalled by a crucifixion or you are suffering a crucifixion then cast not rational logic aside. Instead let it be expanded by the experience of Paul – let it be expanded by your experience of your faith – let it be expanded by the wisdom of the greatest chaplain of them all who is Christ Jesus. For then we can look upon Good Friday in the view of Easter Sunday. For then we can contemplate the cross from the viewpoint of the empty tomb. For then we can face the apparent randomness of crucifixion in the evidence of God’s word.
Because that alone spells out but one word and it resurrection ; that alone confers but one prize and it’s resurrection; that alone reassures in the chilling darkness with – indeed and forever – resurrection.