Of Pride and Humility (Part 3)

Wednesday 31st March 2010
Wednesday of Holy Week
Holy Trinity, Hurstpierpoint

It may seem strange, on this night of betrayal, to think about the comfort of the Cross; but after thinking about our pride and our cowardice, it is, mercifully, appropriate to consider the comfort of the Cross, which lies in this: that the Passion and death of Jesus show us beyond all doubt that there is nothing that we can do which can ever, in any way, impair God's love for us. This is not to say, in Luther's classic formulation, that we can renounce our moral responsibility and yet be saved because the Grace of God is like a cloak that protects and preserves us. No, that strange notion of inviolability is precisely the necessary precondition for the inhumanity which reached its terrible culmination in the episodic genocides of the 20th Century. God's grace does not cover us but, rather works within us and through us; and the death of Jesus tells us that although we have taken him to the cross if we repent and try to love him, and each other, we will have nothing to fear. It is not a paradox that our only means of loving God is God's love for us; and, reverting to Saint Paul, there is a completeness in the crucifixion which, in a consequent mystery, discloses to us the mystery of the incarnation. At last we can see why God chose to intervene in human history; it was to make concrete in the suffering and death of Jesus the absolute infinity of love. The comfort of the cross, then, is in knowing that our failures are forgiven and that each of our small successes in establishing the Kingdom of God on earth is celebrated in the heavenly kingdom. We should, when we consider the magnitude of our collective dereliction and our poor efforts at construction, be amazed at how little we need do to give God the pleasure for which we were created. How much more could we return God's love if we were prepared to see ourselves as God sees us. At which point, it is easy to fall into the Romanticism which was born of Luther's individualism and to think that we need only put our own house in order; but our house is the world; and our witness to Jesus is necessarily public; and what we may need to do may cause us hardship and pain; but I am not comparing the pain of witness with our earthly comfort but the pain of our witness with the infinite joy of everlasting life. The mystery of the cross, then, is that it encompasses our worst misdeeds with our best hope.