Read Genesis 1:1-27 and John 1:1-12
Crosses piped on hot crossed buns, flurries of flour every where, globs of dough sliding down fingers and splattering onto the bench. We’ve done this every year for a while now. These annual traditions grounding us, giving us markers in our calendars and comfortable assumptions in our minds, re-igniting memories, reminding us who we are.
But though all this floury mess is comfortingly familiar, our thoughts are consumed with other things these days.
It’s Good Friday. And it’s not feeling very good right now, a world on lock down, a virus chasing down our loved ones, economies in ruins and all of us huddling in our homes waiting for the storm to pass. Good Friday. How can any good come from all of this?
We’re all losing something right now; losing our normality, losing our daily rhythms, some of us losing the ones we love the most. Some of us losing hope. Where can we find our feet in this world of wearing uncertainty? What can we hold onto when everything falls apart? When everything falls apart, who’s holding onto us? It can feel like everything’s out of control, like the world has fallen off it’s axis and is spinning out into oblivion.
This fear. It can paralyse, cause us to do strange things, sad things, things we’d never dream of doing if we weren’t flailing about on the inside, drowning inwardly, grabbing and grasping in order to keep ourselves afloat. Fear is a normal response when everything changes and nothing is normal. When nothing is normal, it’s normal to go a little mad.
But there are many among us who don’t have that luxury. Health care workers turning up for work having to self isolate from their own families to do so. People dropping groceries by elderly people afraid to leave their homes. Charities and churches taking supplies into poorer communities.
All this suffering brings out our worst, but it also brings out our best. The best in us that knows there are some things bigger than fear and stronger than sickness. Some things that are less visible when life is normal and comfortable. Things like great love. Courageous love. The kind of love that stretches itself even to breaking point, that gives when the give up line is already distant in the rear view mirror.
Such love is not often seen among us in our normal day to day existence, but when it is, when we glimpse it, it stops us in our tracks, it reaches into our depths. When we glimpse it among us we know we are glimpsing something else, something we recognise, though struggle to name. And we begin to remember, like a song long forgotten floating on a distant breeze somewhere, a song so familiar but with lyrics dimmed by time. We begin to remember that we humans are bigger than all the fashions we follow, the products we are consumed by, the devices we distract ourselves with and treadmills we pound.
Within us there is something. Something. Something deep within us that know’s there is more to us than nothing. More to us than dust. More to us than empty religion and going through the motions in a world that often numbs our hearts and empties out our souls.
The hot crossed buns in the oven begin to give off their reassuring aroma, wafting like a warm hug through our home.
We live our little traditions not always really knowing why we do things. We follow our patterns, and walk the paths our cultures lay out before us. It takes a crisis to upend these paths. Sometimes it takes a crisis to discover new paths. Sometimes it takes a crisis to rediscover old paths that we’ve been ignoring for some time. Old paths. Ancient paths.
‘This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls’ Jeremiah 6:16
Aren’t we all at a crossroads right now? Faced with the opportunity change brings, fearing the changes forced on us by circumstance? Faced with the fear of our own mortality? Lives upended, hopes shaken, futures uncertain. This is where we, the human race stands right now, at a cross roads.
Life is easy when we see a familiar road clearly before us and everything goes as planned. It lulls us into comfortable normalcy, the soporific state of habituated motion, going through the motions, while going nowhere but the places we’ve already been, already assumed we’d be.
Crossroads can be a confusing place to be. An uncomfortable place to be. A terrifying place to be. But they can also be an awakening. A prying open of the eyes. A seeing for the first time the one thing we’ve been missing all along.
‘Ask for the ancient paths’, it says. Ancient. Old. Outdated. We humans we love the bling of the new, the excitement of the novel; new trends, new technologies, iPhones 1,2,3,4,5,6…10, our upgrades are endless, our thirst for the next thing, the new thing, the latest thing, the latest bling… but the old? Out with the old and in with the new!
Why would we ask for ancients paths when what we really crave is the new?
Because we’re at a crossroads.
Who needs a new gadget when the world has spun off course?
“Ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls…”
Don’t we all want a little rest some days, rest for our weary souls? These days in particular. New fads don’t offer rest. Not the deep soul rest our hearts truly crave. ‘New bling’ offers excitement, but never truly delivers long term satisfaction. Never truly satiates our yearnings for something real.
This scripture, it’s an invitation. An invitation to a journey. Not a journey without but a journey within. A journey traipsing an old path. An ancient path. A path first trod by someone else back when the world was new, and Good Friday was still good. A path first trod by someone else before you and I existed, before the world existed, before time existed, before religion existed, before pandemics existed, before the world began, before time began, before everything…
… in the very beginning.
‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (Genesis 1:1).
At the genesis of all things, “God said..” –and worlds rushed into being, “Let there be…” -and it was so. No argument, no blue print, no building permits, simply life tumbling forth in glorious eager obedience to God’s word, and God’s word, pregnant with the seeds of the universe ushers in, ignites, births and creates well, everything.
All things find their being simply by God’s word, and yet this reality is more mysterious and strange than simply a symphony of syllables exhaled. That Word, spoken out into the emptiness of everything, filling every void with life upon over-brimming, over-flowing life, that Word is also a person.
That Word is Christ.
‘Let us make mankind’ is the hint the Old Testament gives but the New Testament sticks it like a pin in a map;
‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.’ John 1:1- 3
‘The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.’ Colossians 1:15-17
Before all things, Jesus was; ‘He is before all things and in Him all things hold together’. From before the beginning of all our beginnings, the genesis of all our breaths, Jesus Christ was there, woven into the fabric of every living thing, present in all creation. In Him all things hold together, without Him we fall apart.
Before all things, Jesus was on this ancient path. From before He dreamt us into existence, His walk on this path had begun; This ancient path, the one we get to glimpse at every cross roads in our lives, the one we are beckoned to join, invited to traverse, called to follow. It is a path trod first by the Son of God. A path He has been on since before all time began.
It is the path to a cross.
He’s known all along that this is where His journey would take Him, where love for frail human beings would take Him. From before that day in the first garden long ago Jesus was preparing for His journey to you, to me, His long walk to and through the cross. From the moment He dreamt us into existence, His walk to the cross began.
This God you see, from before all time began, was always on this journey. Before the foundations of the universe were laid, Jesus walk to the cross had begun. He has always been the ‘Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world’ (Revelation 13:8).
Every road, every highway, every path, every backstreet, every alleyway and country lane, He has been traversing to find us.
So we might, through Him, find grace.
‘He has saved us and called us to a holy life -not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.’ (2 Timothy 1:9)
Before all things lived and breathed and found their being, grace was there waiting for us. Grace was there, before the beginning of time because He was there before all time began. And our whole world, containing all the histories, futures, hopes and dreams of every generation of humanity, it has always hung on this one single gold thread; the intentional purpose and grace of the triune God, the community of three.
Before time began, before human kind began, before sin began, before pain began, grace was there, waiting for us. If only we could let it sink in beneath our skin into our veins running straight to our heart. If only we could let our heart hear the beating heart of love for us at the centre of this universe.
When Apollo 13 first sent us back those startling, humbling, frightening pictures of that pale blue dot, a marble suspended in the silence of space; how small we felt, how small we were, dangling there in the vast emptiness and silent darkness. But we, unknowing have always been known, and we, unseeing have always been seen. Beheld and held from the beginning of all things, our orbit around the Sun was ordered by God’s Son, placed, lovingly in the outer regions of the Milky Way. And His hands, full of purpose and grace, His hands were scarless then, then at the beginning of all things.
But I wonder, as He held us like a marble in His hand, did His palm feel it? A twinge of pain mixed with the joy of that first day? Did He hesitate for even a moment when He placed the iron seams in the rock, deep in the belly of the earth, knowing one-day it would pierce deep His hands, His feet, His very heart? And on the day He made the trees, did He flinch knowing He would one-day die on one?
This pale blue dot in the cosmos, this restless whirling world would one-day wound Him to His core; The day creation would turn on it’s Creator.
This cross, you see, it was always there, right from the very beginning. It was always present, as present as Earth’s four compass points, running through the centre, whirling round the middle; North, South, East, West. The compass cross we use to find our way home.
‘For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.’
And this is the thing I find most puzzling of all, at the beginning of all things, God said everything in all creation was ‘good’ (Genesis 1:31) even though He knew one day it wouldn’t be. And yet He said it anyway.
Good Friday, the cross, Jesus death in our place, it was never a plan ‘B’, patch-up job on humanity. It was always only ever a plan ‘A’. It was always the intentional act of a loving God.
Loving us cost Him. And He chose to love us anyway. Loving us cost Him, because that is what real love is: cost. Real love doesn’t look like sentimental feeling or passionate emotion. Real love looks like a cross.
This Good Friday, despite everything, is good. Not because it’s about a death, but because it’s about love. This wild crazy uncontainable love that gave His life for you and me before the creation of the world; this whole spinning world that right now is heaving with pain and reeling with confusion. This whole spinning world full of upending upheaval and shaken hopes. This whole spinning world that needs real love right now more than any other time in all our living memory.
The crosses we pipe on hot crossed buns this season, the ones we’ve gobbled down for many years without a thought thanks to empty tradition and half empty hearts. These crosses were originally there to remind us of one particular cross. The cross that stands like a pin in a map, a line in the sand, a white flag in a war. This cross that is a thin rim of light across a pre-dawn horizon; the promise of a sun about to dawn on a brand new day.
Love did this. God did this. Because this is who He is. Not a distant deity imposing religiosity and rules, but a searching Father scouring every road to find His wandering children. A concerned Father waiting for us at our crossroads inviting us to walk awhile with Him. Because crossroads don’t have to be a dead end. They could be a new beginning.
They could be a new opportunity to breath, to hear, to see, to listen, to experience Life through the eyes of Jesus. This Jesus, not the religious one, but the real one; the one with Galilean dust in His sandals and the depth of a thousand galaxies in His eyes.
They could be a new opportunity for us to bend our eyes to see the world through His, to learn afresh how to stay in step, walking with God, on His long walk, find humanity, to find us; we the ones standing at the crossroads.
Where ever all your previous moments have left you, wherever all your previous experiences have lost you, He’s left heaven behind to find you, where ever you are on the road. Come, find yourself in His love.
Let’s journey together awhile…
Hello! Thanks for taking the time to read this chapter all the way to the end. If you want to hear the rest of this story as it develops subscribe either below or in the top right corner and I’ll send you a chapter once a week for now. I’d love to hear your thoughts about it also, so drop me a line in the comments section below or through facebook if you have feedback or questions. Blessings on your journey, Liz
PS-A Gift for you!
So I posted a gift for you. It’s waiting in the Long walk Post Box for you. It’s our family recipe for Hot Crossed Buns. Enjoy!
All photos of stars and galaxies are used with grateful thanks to the NASA, STSCI, Hubble Heritage, ESA and AURA Team. Use of these images is in the public domain. Hubblesite.org
For those that are curious the photographs of roads were taken on location in : Skomer Island, Wales. Bath, England. Pembrokeshire, Wales. Kingston, Tasmania, Australia. Oxfordshire, England. Holywell, Jamaica. Lake District, England. Trench Town, Jamaica. Alberta, Canada. Melbourne, Australia. Kintyre, Scotland. Lake District, England.