We have gathered today to stand at the foot of the cross.

We have journeyed through Lent to this moment.

From the wilderness to the city.

From exultation to crucifixion.

From raised hopes to the numbness of despair.

We’re at the cross.

Today, from our respective churches, we have journeyed through this city, from east and west, south and north, from all four corners, to a point of reflection, a place where we may be united, for, despite our differing traditions and our hesitating friendships, we stand on common ground.

We bring with us the stories of our communities.

The people we encounter in the course of our discipleship.

The lives that are troubled and torn.

The anxieties and fears of living in today’s world.

We’re at the cross.

 

We’re at the cross whenever we stand with one who suffers.

Whenever we listen to a victim of violence, abuse, harassment or bullying.

Whenever we sit with those whose benefits are cut to the point where they can hardly afford to survive let alone live.

Whenever we feel moved to tears by the tragedies of another’s life, the injustices and inequalities we inflict upon one another.

When we stand with one who suffers, whoever they are and whatever their circumstances we’re at the cross.

 

We’re at the cross today when people take up arms against each other.

When extremists use religion as an excuse for their vile rhetoric and despicable actions.

When we ourselves use selected scripture to justify our own views and prejudice.

When we fall into the trap set for us by those that would divide us and cause us to hate.

When peace breaks down and hostilities break out we’re at the cross.

 

We’re at the cross when a choice is put before us:

To follow the path of Christ’s sacrificial love

or continue with a life that is all about me, me, me.

When all sorts of possibilities tempt us to abandon the tried and tested values that have held our society in check.

When the moral compass appears to be broken and the darkness obscures our path.

When we have choices to consider and decisions to make we’re at the cross. 

 

But what we know is this

That those who stood at the cross of Jesus and watched the last ounce of energy and life drain from his earthly body were the first to discover two days later that very same body was gone from the tomb and risen.

So we who stand at the cross,

whether it be with those who suffer,

whether it be in the major issues of our day

or whether it be the dilemmas we face and the decisions we must make

when we stand at the cross we can have confidence in our faith

we can be confident in the testimony of others and our own experience of life

we can even dare to believe, dare to believe, that those who are crucified by life’s injustice and violence have the potential to be utterly transformed by God’s grace.

For the cross of Jesus Christ proves once and for all that it is not strong enough to destroy him nor indeed all that he, you and I stand for.

 

Three days ago extremists again attacked people as they went about their lawful business.

Three days ago innocent lives were again taken and deep scars, physical and emotional, were inflicted on those who became part of a war not of their choosing.

Three days ago we were again reminded that hatred has a habit of breaking out when we least expected it and in an increasingly frequent manner. 

We now know that these appalling atrocities are not going to go away any time soon.

We now know that this is a new form of global conflict where the battle is waged not by tank battalions on the ground or fighter squadrons in the air but through social media as hearts and minds are tempted one way or another.

We now know that if we sit back and do nothing we cannot beat the enemy on our streets, in our tube stations, airport departure lounges and cafes and theatres.

 

We cannot overcome evil by doing nothing.

That was a lesson our forebears learnt seven decades ago.

Today, like those who went before us, we have to act in the face of the emerging threat to our long cherished values and hard won freedoms.

But we will not, we will not meet violence with violence.

We will meet violence with the only weapon that can overcome it: the sheer, brutal, all persuasive force of unconditional love.

We will build stronger and better relations with those whom the terrorists want us to hate.

That is how we overcome.

That is how the cross stands testimony over the centuries to victory over evil.

And yet, and yet, over those very same centuries worshippers would leave their churches after the Good Friday services and attack the Jews, homes, businesses and synagogues.

Today, when many would have us believe that we are again threatened by a faith different to our own, I am going to walk to the Grandstand on Carholme Road to greet the Muslim community as they conclude their Friday prayers.

And members of the Jewish community will join me.

Those who wish to walk with us are welcome to do so.

I know many will have other services to attend, that’s okay.

But it is important that we act now to stem the rush to hatred.

 

If the cross means anything then it is that Christ died not for a particular sect but for all people everywhere.

If we truly believe this then we have nothing to fear from those who have been nurtured in faith different to our own.

We have nothing to fear, nothing to lose but everything to gain.

The terrorists seek to make us afraid. They seek to divide us. They seek to destroy the relationships that are vital for a healthy society.

We will not let them win.

They cannot win.

For the sake of the future

For those sake of those not yet born

For the sake of our world

We will not let them win.

We will love one another.

If that seems to not be enough then we will love some more,

and even more,

and keep on loving until we beat those that hate with a depth of love that can never be overcome.

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