“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?”
This morning in a quiet moment before the first service of the day, I sat on a step looking across the church and out through the glass double doors. People were walking past in the sunshine outside: strolling, hurrying, carrying shopping bags, pushing pushchairs. And I realised that no, to many who pass by, it is nothing. To many today is a bank holiday and nothing more.
And so I sat in that place where this day has been marked for a thousand years, with the cross towering over me yards away, and prayed. Lord, open their hearts, their eyes. Lord, show us how to be better at sharing your story, our story, with the world. Lord, bring into this place, to the foot of your cross, those whom you are calling. Change something, Lord, transform this place afresh.
And in they came. Not many – fewer than two dozen in a circle for our Godly Play style service, telling the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. But of those, less than half were known to me. And some were quite literally ‘those who pass by’. One woman, who came with her two children, had been literally walking past and “I just felt we ought to come in”. How wonderful!
I dared to ask, and God answered. But how much more often do I not even dare to ask in the first place? Not even bring myself to expect what seems impossible? It’s a form of self-preservation, I suppose: if I don’t set my expectations too high I won’t be disappointed. But with God, our expectations should be high, and still God will exceed them. Nothing is beyond the scope and scale of God’s love in Christ on the cross, and even death is transformed.
We ought to dare, to dream, to ask, to hope. To ask the impossible. Because Christ died so that everything – everyone – could be transformed by God’s love. To set our sights lower than that is to deny the power of Christ crucified.
And that’s what brought me to tears at the foot of the cross today. The times I have failed to expect and pray for God’s transformation of the world, and in so doing minimised the enormity of what Christ has done for us. The times I have failed to trust that God can redeem every life and situation, the times I have given in to hopelessness, and in so doing brushed aside too lightly the great hope we have been given in love that is stronger than death.
Good Friday is about the transforming power of self-emptying love. It is about sorrow too painful to contemplate. It is about the unlimited power and generosity of God humbling Godself even to death on the cross. And because of this great act of salvation, this greatest of miracles, we can and must pray for and wait expectantly for those little miracles which will transform the world, until this can never again be nothing to those who pass by.