Today, Good Friday, we look back on Jesus’s life, we await his death and we look forward to his resurrection. We look back in order to remember. And we look forward in order to find the hope of the resurrection, our reconciliation with Christ, who died and rose for us, so that we might be his ambassadors in this world. So today, we find ourselves in this liminal space of the present – looking back and forward at the same time, and often an uncomfortable space to inhabit, particularly on Good Friday.
I have been thinking a lot about space lately. About space and reconciliation, and what is needed to create a safe enough space for reconciliation, perhaps something like this liminal space which pulls and pushes us back and forwards. When we remember as Christian people, we hold together in this space past, future and present. God’s kingdom exists in this space – in the liminality of the past, the future and the space we inhabit today.
There is a poem by the 13C Persian poet, Rumi: He wrote, ‘Out there beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.’
In thinking about the pain of Good Friday, and the hope of reconciliation, about past and future, about liminal space, I’d like us to imagine this field, the field of meeting beyond wrong or right doing. What do you imagine this field to be like?
The field you are thinking about now might be a place of childhood memories; of playing in a meadow; the field might be a field of gold; or it might be a muddy field, shell pocked, fought over, in Vimy Ridge, or Passchendaele, or Arnhem, or Dunkirk or a field of scorched earth in Vietnam; or desert in Afghanistan; Iraq, Syria, Palestine…
Our field could be this desolate wounded place. It could be. It sometimes, it often is. But our field could be a space of growth, abundance, blessing. Whatever our field is like, we need to meet there. To be ready to choose to be vulnerable, to forgive and be forgiven. To love our enemies in our field. Our field, you see, is this liminal space where we can both look back and forwards. Our field is here, it is now. Or it can be, if we decide to meet there.
Today, when we exist in this field, in this liminal space of looking back and remembering, and looking forward to reconciliation, is a time to reassess how we live. How can we, how do we take part in God’s kingdom?
Last year I spent part of Holy Week and Easter on a peace walk in Northern Iraq, in Kurdistan. About 20 of us from CCN partners in Europe and others walked with local Christians, Muslims and Yazidis. A quarter of people living in Northern Iraq live in refugee camps, people internally displaced from their own country due to ISIS attacks. Many refugees and aliens in their own land, their own field.
We walked for peace, to proclaim the possibility of peace in that fought over space. On Good Friday we visited a village about 30km from Mosul – Mosul, incidentally is the ancient city of Nineveh – a village that had been destroyed by ISIS, the villagers having all fled or worse. It was a place of destruction, completely devoid of life. Houses were rubble, shops damaged, and the church though still standing had been desecrated, the altar broken and lying in rubble. We could hear Mosul being shelled. So I held a Good Friday service in the desecrated church (pictured above). We laid candles that we had brought with us in the shape of a cross in front of the destroyed altar and prayed the prayers of Good Friday, the Litany of Reconciliation, for healing, for the end to that conflict, for peace. That day the field indeed seemed desolate. I placed a small cross of nails on the broken altar that had been blessed by Bishop Christopher in Coventry on Maundy Thursday. As a sign of Christ’s peace.
On Easter Day we returned to that deserted village and desecrated church. But this time, the bleakness in the Church was transformed. The same rubble was there, the same bullet holes in the walls, the same broken crosses and hacked memorials. But there were people from the surrounding villages, flowers on the altar, children dressed in white, and a packed church there to proclaim the hope of the resurrection, the hope of peace and the possibility of rebuilding. The local Peshmerga, the soldiers came to receive their Easter communion. There were even painted eggs and chocolate after the service. As an aside, people were rather surprised to see a female priest- unknown in those parts – I don’t think I have been asked to bless as many babies and people in wheelchairs ever! The foundation of a rebuilt community was born that day. A space for remembering and for reconciliation. A liminal space, ‘where every tear is wiped away’.
Today, in 2018, what can we as the church do, what should we do, to respond and act for justice, for hope, for reconciliation? In today’s world where white gated communities trump cardboard shacks. Where Europe is again being torn apart. Where the colour of your skin, or your gender, or your ethnicity or your sexuality can deny you justice. Where your fields have been appropriated, or taken away like those of the Canadian indigenous peoples and countless others around the world.
Is it time for a new Declaration of Reconciliation? Can we as the Church, as the CCN, speak out to our nations, our communities, ourselves? We need to courageously inhabit this liminal, reconciling space, steering our communities toward peace and reconciliation and away from conflict and division. We truly need to inhabit this liminal space however uncomfortable it may be.
In his Son’s death and resurrection, in his body and blood, God enables us to inhabit his blessings. That is why and how we inhabit this space we find ourselves in today, how we as committed disciples of Christ can tilt our communities towards reconciliation. That is how and why we live with difference and celebrate diversity. That is how we live with the gift of blessing we receive as peacemakers. That is how and why we live the gospel, the gospel of reconciliation.
What will we write into our Declaration of Reconciliation today? Maybe as a good starting point we would do well to follow in Provost Howards footsteps in 1940 when he said, ‘Let’s build a more Christ-childlike and kinder world.’ So as we look back and forward today, as we remember and reconcile, let us indeed build a more Christ child like and kinder world, because nothing much else seems to be working. And lets then meet in the field, where we find Christ in the face of the other.