All of last week the chaplaincy team were leading assemblies in Calderside Academy using the cross as the symbol that directed our thoughts. The cross was swiped from the wall in the church - while at some point this will no doubt find a home high up on the sanctuary wall, it sure is handy to have a large cross to be able to use for this kind of activity!
We were thinking about the cross at the pre-eminent moment in human history where what tries to diminish us is reversed by that which can fulfil human life. [There's more...]
We asked the different year groups to think of what puts us down, what stops us from being what we could be, and each day of the week we added these ideas to the cross. Symbolically nailing these ideas to the cross. These included bullying, fear, illness, war, greed, grief, selfishness, gossip, anxiety, low self-esteem, poverty, lies, peer pressure, hatred, terrorism, racism, and even death itself.
It sometimes took a slow start but the ideas began to come as the pupils understood what we were asking; this is quite a challenging concept to dive straight into first thing in the morning!
In our churchy language we often talk about Jesus dying for our sins on the cross. It was a very visual and aural sumbol to hear the hammer blows and see the cross lifted up with these thoughts on it. These were just the sorts of things that led people to crucify Jesus, the one who came to show people a different way of living, a way of living that even on the cross reached out in love to those who nailed him there.
We heard the conversation from Luke's gospel between the two prisoners crucified on either side of Jesus before one of the pupils beautifully sang the adaptation of St Francis of Assisi's great prayer, "Make me a channel of your peace".
In St Francis's prayer he shows how for the Christian there is a flip-side to what diminishes us: where there is hatred let me bring love, where there is despair in life let me bring hope, where there is doubt, true faith, and so on.
And so, at this moment, while one of us was speaking, the other chaplains took the cross and flipped it around to show the words: Peace, Love, Hope and Faith.
As the ultimate expression of God's refusal to accept that the actions which diminish his creation will have the final word, the cross, the empty cross of new life, gives Christians inspiration to bring peace, to live in love, to ceaselessly hope and to do so empowered by our faith in God, in the Way of Jesus, and also in each other.
One of the dinner ladies, as we left following the first assembly, told us that it was very emotional and powerful as she had listened from the kitchens. I pray for more stories of peacefulness, of love being expressed, of hopefulness and faithfulness, for this is the legacy of the cross, of the empty tomb, of the day of new life we will celebrate in a week's time.
[P.S. those seeds we buried in the soil, dying in the earth last Sunday, are already refusing to be diminished!]