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There’s an old Christian song called When I survey the wondrous cross. It’s about the pain and the agony that Christ went through as he hung there on a wooden cross so that you and I might live forever. We’ve all seen the crucifix image, meaning in Latin, one (person) fixed on a cross. Personally, I don’t like it that a method of execution has become a symbol for Jesus Christ.
Johnny Cash, the famous singer, known for his Folsom Prison Blues and many other great songs, was a Christian, and in my mind right now I hear him singing, Were you there when they crucified my Lord?1 One of the lines is, Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb? Imagine. Take yourself back to that moment. As the song continues, Ohh, sometimes it causes me to tremble…tremble.
The source of the story is found primarily in the Gospels. There are four versions of what happened, each from a different viewpoint. They don’t agree always on minor details, and the small differences point to the certainty of the central events.
The accounts, poignantly moving in their simplicity, all refer to when Jesus was laid in the tomb. Let me take excerpts from each of the passages involved1, and merge them together to portray what happened:
… as evening approached, there came a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, who had become a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. Joseph was a prominent member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. Joseph went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, Joseph’s own, cut out of rock, in which no one had ever been laid. Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in the tomb. Thus, with Pilate’s permission, Joseph came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about thirty-five kilograms. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. Joseph rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee, followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Matthew 27:57-61 Mark 15:42-47 Luke 23:5-56 John 19:38-41
I wonder what it was like. What if you or I had to take care of the dead body of a loved one? What if it were battered and bloodied? Where would you start? How did Joseph and Nicodemus feel as they took Jesus’ body down? Did the centurion, who had witnessed the crucifixion, help them? Was the cross lowered first, and then, gently, with tears in their eyes, did they extract the nails from the flesh and prise the crown of thorns from his head? What next? Did they take some clean cloth, to wash away the blood and dirt from his body, and, with tenderness, pat it dry in preparation for the first embalming? Was this followed by wrapping the strips of linen, infused with sweet-smelling, preserving spices, around his lifeless body before laying Jesus respectfully in the tomb? How did the women react as they watched on? What emotions gripped them as they followed the men carrying him to the tomb, and watched as the stone closed its entrance?
The Jesus story goes from sadness to elation, from sorrow to joy, from weeping to singing, because, you remember what happens…three days later the stone is rolled away! Well, were you there when the stone was rolled away? Johnny Cash goes on to sing. The answer is yes, we were. Jesus’ story becomes our story.
Paul presents the actual events of the crucifixion and the resurrection in terms of a new life for us. How can ordinary people like you and me, who are shackled to our past like slaves chained to a sinking ship, be released and begin anew? Through Jesus Christ. What to do is to accept what Jesus has done for us on the cross. Let the old self be crucified with him, be taken down and laid in that tomb with Jesus. Whatever terrible things we may have done, whatever dark thoughts have held us back –¬ they have been forgiven and their lasting effects are now buried because of the grace of Jesus.
But, Jesus did not remain in the grave, the good news is that he is risen from the dead! Jesus is no longer nailed to that cross or dead in the grave, and neither are we. Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Rom 6:4
Were you there when he rose up from the dead? There’s no doubt. Only certainty. Yes, you were. You and I, and all of humanity, were there. We died with Jesus, we went down, and with him we rise up again.
Embrace your life in the risen Christ.
Dominica…. On the Road to Recovery after Hurricane Maria
by Daphne Vidal
Almost six months since the unwelcome visit of Hurricane Maria to Dominica, things are slowly getting back to a new level of normality. Like the rest of the island, all GCI Dominica members endured the devasting effects of Hurricane Maria. The level of damage sustained included roofs being completely blown away, broken windows, damaged roofs and flooding.
Members from our closest neighbours in the Caribbean (Martinique, Grenada, Trinidad and Barbados) came to our aid by sending much needed food and supplies. For their generosity we are oh so grateful. Churches in the Bahamas, USA, Canada, UK and St. Lucia provided financial aid which has assisted members in purchasing items to repair their homes. The church in Trinidad also sent much needed lumber and galvanized metal, which was used to assist members repair their homes and businesses.
While the recovery process is still ongoing, we have learnt to adapt to our situation and in all things give God thanks. At present, most of GCI Dominica’s family members have potable water at home, electricity is slowly being restored, and repairs are scheduled to take place before the next hurricane season starts on June 1st. There are still delays in obtaining building material, skilled labour and clearing goods from the port, but we firmly believe that all things will work out to the glory and honour of the Lord.
Duncan McLean at 90 (10/02/1928)
by Portia Brathwaite
Congratulations to Duncan on his 90th birthday. He certainly doesn’t act his age!
He has stories to tell of changes in the world, offering different perspectives on life as we know it; and stories of learning to play the trumpet, the discipline instilled in him by his teacher, making him the musician he is today. Duncan started playing the cornet at the age of 8, with free lessons and free loan of a cornet.
At age 10, he was playing cornet in the Alloa Borough Band, until the war started. Men over 18 had been called up and he was alone in the band. He was given the use of a better instrument, encouraging him to keep playing. He had been about to give up but was given advice by his teacher that he heeded; ’Practise every day,’ and Duncan still does!
Leaving school at 14, he worked as a labourer in the building trade – a rough unforgiving world, unsuited to a slightly-built 14-year-old – and then as a type-setter at a local newspaper.
He decided to work as a musician in the evenings while completing his apprenticeship as a bricklayer during the day. An application for a job in ‘Melody Maker’ led to playing with an under 18 dance band touring England. Duncan toured in Scarborough, Skegness, Nottingham and Exmouth. On one occasion, leaving the dance hall in Exmouth after rehearsal, he found himself under machine gun fire and bombing from low-flying German aircraft. He survived by diving into a corner for cover and by return fire from the anti-aircraft guns on Exmouth sea front.
After the tour Duncan found his way in the adult world, in Nottingham, at the age of 15, playing in the city’s dance halls. He was now playing a trumpet, bought with his earnings, and he approached one of the band leaders with a proposal: ’Pay me nothing, or pay me what you think I’m worth.’ He quickly learned to sight-read the many dance tunes, proved himself, and got a good wage! With the help of the book, ’Hot Trumpet Course’, Duncan taught himself to play jazz – popular in dance-halls during war time years.
Fast forward to the present day, via writing orchestrations, composing music, playing for musicals, brass bands and dance bands, with 12 years at Ambassador College as band director, and Imperial Schools band director, obtaining an ARCM qualification in Trumpet Teaching and the Special Harmony examination: we have Duncan’s lifelong dedication and love of music to thank for the selfless efforts he puts in to teach us at choir rehearsals each month, since the late 1970s.
I feel privileged to have been part of the Luton choir for many years, sharing Duncan’s enthusiasm to do our best to sing God’s praises.
Thank you, Duncan, for your commitment and dedication to worshipping God through music in our churches, and for your stewardship and the constant inspiration you give us.
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