Some of you will be familiar with the Negro Spiritual “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” Our answer to its question, of course, is “No, we weren’t there.” But there were people around at the time whose memories of the events in Jerusalem when Jesus entered it to shouts of “Hosanna!” and, so soon after, when the shouts demanded “Crucify him!” were passed on and now form part of the Gospel story.
We know that Jerusalem at that time was a place of political unrest and suspicion, and so it’s not surprising that with the coming of someone into Jerusalem attracting so much attention the authorities would have been very wary indeed. They quickly came to see Jesus and his messages about justice, compassion and goodness as a dangerous threat to the set-up that they had managed to create. So “Hosanna” became “Crucify” – basically, let’s get rid of this individual, this threat to our comfortable and carefully created existence.
The very fact that the Christian Church was born, however, confirms a truth that is both simple yet complex: although they tried to get rid of Jesus, although they believed they had got rid of him, nothing of the sort had happened. As we move towards Easter 2019, our celebration of his new life, we are ourselves at a time of political turmoil. I hope that, despite the deeply unwelcome agitation and activities of some who see this as an opportunity to encourage unrest, there won’t be any, and that people will take a step back, recognising that, just as they have their own firm opinions, so do others and their right to hold those opinions is something to be respected.
More than that, I hope that people will turn their attention to the many needy people we have in our communities and beyond. I don’t need to remind you of either the exceptional needs some of these have people have, or their causes. Their world needs change; they need new life; they want their own resurrection.
It’s sometimes said that we don’t have the capacity to change the world – it is all too complicated, difficult and challenging. My response to this is to affirm that one act of kindness, one act of generosity, one act of compassion, one act of forgiveness, one act of love, by one person to another, changes that other person’s life; and if one person’s life is changed then the world is changed and changed for the better.
So, yes, we are in a bit of a bind politically; but there are other things on the nation’s agenda, real issues of real need. I urge that, at this time of celebrating Christ’s new life, we won’t let goodness and love be put to one side, we won’t try and do away with the message of compassion, and that we will seek to bring new life to those who are in really deep need.
A happy and a blessed Easter to all of you.