"My Favourite Island Church
- Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman CBE (1906-1984)
THE CHAPEL-OF-EASE TO THE PARISH OF GODSHILL
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St. Alban's Church, St. Alban's Road,
Ventnor, Isle of Wight, PO38 1DE
GOOD FRIDAY 2020
Our faith is not always terribly well served by some of the hymns we sing.
An outstanding example about the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life tells us that “little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.” Some baby that! And now, at the other end of his life, can it really be that “cheerful he to suffering goes”? Wherever in the Bible do we read that?
Both hymns present Jesus as a kind of make-believe human, God masquerading as man.
It’s all a million miles away from the words of the Letter to the Hebrews, “he had to be like us in all respects, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest, to make expiation for the sins of the people.and sympathize with our weaknesses.“ This central truth of Christian faith always has a particular resonance at times of great crisis like this year.
I don’t want to labour the point or bash the hymn-writers, but it is important to believe and understand that Jesus really did share this human life of ours - as another hymn puts it, “tears and smiles like us he knew”, and as he himself said “my soul is sorrowful even unto death” while praying, “Father, let this cup pass from me.” One consequence of this is that “there is no place where earth’s sorrows are more felt than up in heaven.”
The Bible tells us that as he grew up “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and other people.” Jesus grew from childhood innocence and implicit trust, through the critical questioning of adolescence to the wisdom and purposeful activity of maturity.
How wonderfully gracious and gentle God is with us! I want you to imagine for a moment just one sign of how Jesus grew like we do. Picture in your mind’s eye the hands of a new born ll babies have tightly balled fists, which may open enough to grab a finger which it then clings onto. Part of the process of growing up is learning how to open our hands, no longer concentrated for defence or possession, but expansive, outstretched to and for other people, able to give, and because open, to be vulnerable.
Jesus, like us, began with tiny and tightly balled fists. He then grew, not without struggle, into today’s supreme example of open-handed, open armed self-offering. He is, therefore, as the Bible tells us, not one “unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are but without sin.” And because Jesus “himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.” Growing up to real maturity isn’t easy for any of us, of course. There are risks attached to becoming more open to the world and to other people, and it can be tempting to want stay in earlier stages of development. But even as we grow, some features of our past remain with us. It’s not so much that we grow out of them, but rather that we set them in a wider context, we add greater knowledge and insight to what we had before. So innocence and questioning remain important aspects of adulthood. But both are dangerous if we get fixed in either of them. The temptation is always there to keep our fists defensively clenched or our arms folded firmly across our chests, or alternatively to take pride in an endlessly critical attitude. Jesus however makes it possible for us to open up, to relax into a world whose joys and sorrows he has himself shared, to give ourselves in generosity to other people and to surrender ourselves without reserve and with boundless confidence into God’s hands.
Let us then not begrudge baby Jesus his tears or pretend that the Cross was less awful than it was. But at the same time, perhaps we might be slightly kinder to the hymn writers. “Cheerful” in the everyday sense of the word Jesus may not have been, but serene and confident he certainly was. As the Letter to the Hebrews put it, ”for the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame.” Trusting completely in his Father and knowing that God’s will is always for the best , he was able to say “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” To his disciples, he said “In the world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
There is a real paradox about Good Friday. Jesus is nailed to the cross, the ultimate symbol it seems of powerlessness, of freedom taken away. But Jesus, however bound, was always free, free to do his father’s will. Going to the cross was his final act of obedience, obedience freely given. So he makes it possible for us to be free to, free to live for God.
We recognise in Jesus the God who shared our life completely and who alone can make sense of our struggles, helping us to overcome them or to bear them as we learn to hold them in our own open hands. As today we contemplate his arms opened wide on the cross to embrace us and the whole world, let us ask him to enable open our hands in free self offering too.
CELEBRATE EASTER 2020 AT HOME WITH THE HELP OF THESE VIDEOS
Kindly made for us by +John who was due to take our Holy Week services at St. Alban's Church this year.
Stations of the Cross
The worship component consists of a version of the RSCM "The Cross of Christ" and recordings of the hymns. Although designed for choir and congregation it would be an excellelt devotion for people to follow on their own at home. They would need a Bible for the readings. The order of service is attached as a PDF, and YouTube links are provided in the usual way. I am grateful to Sarah PInnell, the musical director of Warblington with Emsworth for all this material. If anyone is challenged by so much YouTube material, the text of the service would be a rewarding exercise in itself.
Music for "The Cross of Christ"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0ybUpuLn8M There is a green hill
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMR4hxa54-g Is it nothing to you (Ouseley)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1KXvAGYFHc Sing, my tongue the glorious battle
PLEASE NOTE that there is no decent
recording available with these words but
this organ accompaniment is the correct
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVidFFF0lfE Lord, for thy tender mercy's sake
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGXTd9I8cJw Be thou my guardian
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzp2Wzh6zhw O Lord, who dares to smite thee
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYPJ82c2skQ My God, I love thee
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifRdosvMmb8 Ah, holy Jesu
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMart4wXsI0 My song is love unknown
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXjn6srhAlY Ave Verum (Mozart) (Jesu word of God
incarnate in translation)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_quvj5MHdM O sacred head (Bach) PLEASE NOTE
there are extra verses included.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxlilJVENWo O Saviour of the world (Goss)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KZ24JFTtPw O dearest Lord
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPBE5r3a0UA Praise to the holiest PLEASE NOTE only
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9eCUqz_x5A When I survey the wondrous cross
Good Friday address (text also attached)
ON THIS PAGE IS THE VIDEO ADDRESS FOR GOOD FRIDAY AND THE PRINTED VERSION OF IT AND ALSO THE STATIONS OF THE CROSS VIDEO
FOR THE FULL GOOD FRIDAY SERVICE IN PDF FORM PLUS LINKS TO ALL THE HYMNS & MUSIC ON YOUTUBE CLIPS PLEASE CLICK HERE