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Mar 10 Archdeacon George: Is it nothing to you?

“ Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by ? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow�. Those haunting words from the Book of Lamentations, gained added poignancy for me when I first heard them sung to Edward Bairstow’s setting. This month Lent reaches its solemn climax as we commemorate our Lord’s Passion; and we should be challenged once again by the prophet’s cry on behalf of the fallen city of Jerusalem.

Of course, for us they point forward to Christ’s suffering on the Cross. Christ grieves again at our indifference to others’ needs. Geoffrey Studdert-Kennedy, otherwise known as “Woodbine Willy�, wrote a poem called “Indifference� which contrasted the cruelty of Calvary with the apathy of the modern world :- “When Jesus came to Birmingham, they simply passed him by�. Jesus’ response to such indifference was to crouch against a wall and cry for Calvary. It’s not great poetry, but it serves to remind us, both of the challenge of our preaching of the Passion to an indifferent society; and of the challenge to us to see Christ in the suffering of others. I’m writing this a little over two weeks after the devastation of the Haitian earthquake, as the rescue teams prepare to go home, having done their best. By the time you read it six weeks on, the likelihood is that Haiti will have slipped from our consciences; yet the work of rebuilding that shattered country will have barely begun, and the suffering of its people will go on for years. The key to the so-called “problem of suffering� lies not in asking how God could allow this to happen; but rather in asking what difference God can make to the situation now. That depends on our passionate response, both in terms of generous giving, but also in recognising Christ in the homeless and the bereaved. He gave his life once for all, yet there’s a real sense in which he still suffers at the pain of our world. He calls on us to overcome our indifference and to commit to building a more just society, where the needs of a country like Haiti, already impoverished before the earthquake, are taken very seriously. We don’t have it in our power to prevent earthquakes. We do have the ability to give the world’s poorer nations the chance to build more secure infrastructures, and to re-build and recover their dignity and their hope. Whether the suffering is in Haiti, or much nearer to home, for example in the aftermath of last November’s floods, God can and does work in us to transform even the darkest of situations. William Vanstone wrote these remarkable words after the Aberfan disaster in 1966, when a slag heap collapsed on a school, killing 144 people, the majority of them young children. They’re a challenge to our indifference; a thoughtful response to those who would use suffering as evidence against God; and a call for us to join in God’s redemptive work :- “Our preaching on the Sunday after the tragedy (of Aberfan) was not of a God who, from the top of the mountain, caused or permitted, for his own inscrutable reasons, its disruption and descent; but of one who received, at the foot of the mountain, its appalling impact, and who, in the extremity of endeavour, will find yet new resource to restore and to redeem�. George Howe Archdeacon of Westmorland & Furness

  • The Rev'd Walter Wade Posted Monday 16 July 2018 It is with sadness we inform you ...