Good Friday seems to me, like a moment when I should be silent. Anything I could say might seem crass, or words for the sake of words. There’s a hymn by Isaac Watts; ‘When I survey the wondrous Cross’, written nearly 300 years ago. It’s always been there or there abouts in my conscious and subconscious mind.
Often, throughout my life I’ve heard it playing, particularly in difficult moments and times of trial or uncertainty. It’s a kind of anchor, blessing, guide or guiding star in what can seem like dark days. I have suffered from intense bouts of depression throughout my life and so often Isaac Watts’ words have reached out to me, because they describe a profound reality which is sometimes just out of reach, but closer than I might understand at that precise moment.
Just hear the words of the opening verse; ‘When I survey the wondrous cross, On which the Prince of Glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride’. Curious words on one level, but they search my soul, each time I hear them. For Watts describes the human condition perfectly and our need to be open to the boundless love of God, revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As you read or hear these words, you may be struggling, physically, mentally, spiritually or emotionally. Perhaps all together! I have no simple answer to what is happening to you, as I have no simple answers for myself! But this is where dear old Isaac steps in, inviting us to reflect on the depth of God’s love for you, me, all people. The news should be proclaimed from the rooftops, but in a virtual sense, please! That simple last sentence…’and pour contempt on all my pride’ speaks of the trap that I fall into, which is a pride that focusses on the negative, in myself and others. It will be different for each of you. Perhaps take a moment between now and Sunday to reflect on this for yourself.
I just want to move our focus onto the fourth and final verse of this great hymn…here it is; ‘Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small, love so amazing so divine, demands my soul my life my all.’ That’s it, in a nutshell!!!
As a new undergraduate I went to hear Revd. David Watson, at the Oxford Union. I was struggling with lots of things but at one point I became overwhelmed with the love and presence of God and God’s Spirit spoke peace into my heart, through David’s words. It was a seminal moment and I can still fell the intensity and shed tears as I speak to you now, 45 years later!
Replay those words of Isaac Watts in your own consciousness…write them down, stick them up somewhere, ponder them, be assured. God is not far off, unable to understand the human condition, or what we are going though at this moment. He is nearer to us than we are to ourselves and through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, shows profound understanding and identification with each of us.
Just to end, just a reminder of the words of the third verse; ’See from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down, did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown.’
Just know, on this Good Friday, even in the midst of all that goes on in your life, family, friends, wider community and world, that God is with us and understands us completely