Thought for the Day - 21/04/2014 - John Bell

Yesterday - Easter Day, I joined people sunbathing in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park. It was a very different experience from Friday morning when I was one of a small group wandering slowly through the same vicinity.. We weren’t birdspotting, but walking round different monuments and statues. .

It was a variation of the ancient tradition of Stations of the Cross/ .We remembered at each monument a moment on Jesus’ journey to his death, but related that to the pain and the compassion associated with the different pieces of sculpture.

Near the beginning we came to a bronze memorial to the carnage of the first world war. The bronze was the colour of the mud of Flanders. One figure was moving forward with his gun at the ready. To the rear was a fellow soldier lying dead, his right hand jutting out into the air.

The young woman who introduced this station announced that here we would remember Jesus falling for the first time. Then she invited us to walk round the bronze sculpture slowly and to take the hand of the dead soldier.

It was a surreal moment for me. It was like shaking hands with history, because as I held this cold bronze hand, I realised it could have been the hand of another John Bell, my great uncle who was killed at the Somme….. a loss so profound for my grandfather that even fifty years later he could not speak of his brother’s death without weeping about the futility of it all.

That experience has not so much haunted me as stayed with me all weekend…. all weekend that is until yesterday, Easter Day, when I was reading again the stories associated with Jesus reappearing in a very sentient way to those who had presumed he was gone forever.

Twice he shows them his hands and invites his friends to touch them. These are not dead hands as cold as bronze, they are warm, alive, but they are scarred, marked at the places where nails were driven through to secure him to the cross. These hands are warm and alive yet scarred because in his resurrection Jesus points to a different way of dealing with conflict…. not grandstanding at a distance, hurling accusations, breeding hate, inciting violence until there is no retreat and the lust for conflict becomes an imperative to kill.

No, there is another way which involves taking the pain and the animosity of the other- the enemy - into the self until a profound openness to the pain and the hatred in the other becomes the bridge to healing and reconciliation, and we discover that goodness is stronger than evil, peace is stronger than conflict, love is stronger than hate.

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