This year on Good Friday, the priest I live with, Mother Anne-Marie, preached a series of sermons interspersed with prayer and silence on the hymn ‘In Christ Alone’ – here is number one.
In Christ Alone my hope is found
The hymn we have just sung was written in 2002. This is no trite worship song, but a modern hymn which has been voted the one most likely to stand the test of time. With music by Keith Getty and words by Stuart Townend it has a melody we remember and words of depth and great encouragement. I don’t know whether it will stand the test of time, but I do think it is a hymn for our times, and particularly in the Western world as certainties have crumbled. Written one year after 9/11, it seems to speak to a society that faces terrorist threats, fights wars that it cannot quite understand, faces the unknown consequences of climate change, sees banks fail, and the securities of jobs for life and decent pensions disappear in just a decade. We know in the west that we still have it good compared to most of the world, but however much we remind ourselves of that, we cannot help but be affected by living through a period of such rapid change and growing uncertainty.
Stuart Townend’s words speak to us powerfully of how Christ can make a difference and give us an anchor to live by. It is a message he roots in Christian theology. As I said not trite words these, but words that succinctly sum up what the life, death and resurrection of Jesus mean and therefore how Jesus Christ, in a world of shifting ground, can become the solid ground under the feet of each one of us.
You may want in these two hours to ignore a lot of what I am saying, what the prayers are saying that intersperse our time together, and what the other hymns that we sing are proclaiming. You might just want to focus on the words of this hymn and in the silences use these words to pray to God for your life and to give thanks for what Jesus has done for you.
In 2006 a soldier in Iraq wrote this about In Christ Alone:
“I wanted to share a song that has been a real inspiration to me. It is a new hymn written, I believe, a year or two ago but it has the feel of the traditional hymns. I have listened to it almost every night and even tend to sing/reflect on its words on my trips across town between the Palace and Baghdad International Airport. It has been an inspiration to me because each of its verses reminds me of fundamental principles. The first verse claims who Christ is to me, a cornerstone. He is the reason for my hope, my peace and in whom I receive the comfort to continue on even during the separation from my wife, my kids and my home.”
We all face difficult situations which challenge our faith. For some of us life may not be working out quite as we had planned. We may want in the first silence to think back over our lives so far and to look at what has not quite worked out as planned. We might want to look at what lies ahead and what our real fears are for the future. They don’t have to be the big things like global warming, because what keeps us awake at night might be the winter fuel bill we have to pay, the falling interest on our savings, the redundancies we think might be coming at work, an illness we might never have but worry about getting. If these things are of concern to us they are of concern to God.
In our reading St Paul talks of the infinite love of Christ and how nothing – not persecution or famine or sword, not death or life or rulers or powers or things to come can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. In these talks on this Good Friday we will be exploring why the death of Jesus is the foundation for this hope – this certainty that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. As we meditate this afternoon on Jesus nailed to the cross, we will explore together why this event is so earth shattering and why on this Christ, nailed to this cross, we can place all our hope.
As we enter into the first silence, let us pray.