Friday, 18 April 2014

Sensing Lent 39: Wood

The irony of Christ, whose father was a carpenter, growing up to be nailed to a piece of wood, was not lost on Sir John Everett Millais, when he painted 'Christ in the House of his Parents ('The Carpenter's Shop') in 1849. 

The young Jesus standing near to the tools which cut and gouge wood - the wood shavings strewing the shop floor - that would be enough - but Millais has to hammer home (pun intended) the juxtaposition of flesh and wood by having the young boy cut his finger on a nail and the blood drip onto his hand and foot. Such was the way of the Pre-Raphaelites.

Much can be made of the Christian symbolism of wood and trees - the Cross of Calvary becomes, effectively, the tree of life. 'Cursed be anyone who who hangs on a tree' (Old Testament) but the sting removed by the victory of the Cross (New Testament).

I hope it's not the case that we're supposed to dwell excessively on the violence of the Cross, because it is exceptionally difficult to comprehend at face value. Flesh on wood just does not go. Just as well, then, that as a symbol of forgiveness and reconciliation, you could say it now has a life of its own. We refer to the power of the Cross, the work of the Cross, the shadow of the Cross, the healing of the Cross. 

When you take a seven foot wooden cross out into the vicinity, say a town square, or even simply into a church building, it presents all sorts of possibilities for encounter. In a simple act of devotion today we chose images and words to pin to the wood at our Good Friday Meditation in church. The Cross has a powerful effect - we cannot predict how people will react to it. Best, then, to let the Holy Spirit do the work and let the Cross of wood speak its own language of redemption, healing and hope. 

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