Were You There?

Scripture Reading: Matthew 27:24-61

More than wicker baskets and colorful eggs, Easter from my childhood reminds of a song. I can’t tell you why, but my earliest memories of this season center around the singing of “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” An African American spiritual that probably predates the Civil War, “Were You There” was likely composed by slaves in the 19th Century and first published in William Barton’s Old Plantation Hymns in 1899. I can still remember goosebumps popping out all over as my young heart seriously considered my own response to the lyrical question. The cross should always elicit a response. Either I turn away repulsed in unbelief, or I tremble and cling to it for dear life. Crosses are never neutral.

“The symbol of the cross in the church points to the God who was crucified not between two candles on an altar, but between two thieves in the place of the skull, where the outcasts belong, outside the gates of the city. It does not invite thought, but a change of mind. It is a symbol which therefore leads out of the church and out of religious longing into the fellowship of the oppressed and abandoned. On the other hand, it is a symbol which calls the oppressed and godless into the church and through the church into the fellowship of the crucified God.”

~Jürgen Moltmann (The Crucified God)

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