We laughed and laughed and laughed. How indeed did we laugh!
It was at that classic British sitcom – Fawlty Towers. Set in a chaotic hotel in some English seaside resort, it was run by the manic Basil Fawlty who got into also sort of scrapes. Take the time his car wouldn’t start. So he took a hairy fit and thrashing it with a tree branch. He would butter up aristocratic guests only to find out they were con artists. Miguel the long suffering Spanish waiter was Basil’s foil, regularly getting bashed on the head with a frying pan. Yet Basil’s nemesis was that shrew of a wife – Sybil. She always summoned her ludicrous husband with an ear drum stabbing shriek of – Basil!
Yes we laughed and laughed and laughed.
Well Sybil was played by Prunella Scales. Recently, she appeared on TV as herself. For, with her husband, the actor Timothy West,
she presented a documentary series on their common love of canal boating. At each episode’s start, Tim explains Pru is having problems with her memory. In fact, her son tells the camera that his dad is seeing the person he loves slipping away from him. In a way, it is a slow even gentle but inevitable crucifixion.
Nevertheless, we are all surrounded by crucifixions in our own circle; the young father dying of cancer, the mother fearing an abusive father and the old man now widowed trying to find some companionship even purpose in living.
Where then on Good Friday is there a clue to coping with crucifixions?
Well, some ideas come from those who were there for Christ
at his passion those Good and ordinary people who stood at the foot of the cross. Since, the passion journey is not just about the suffering of the son of God – supreme as that might be –
it is also a story of accompaniment.
In fact, it is very much the story of those who loved Jesus as his community of friends and family. And so it is about the disciples who had been with him for three years.It is about the women who followed Jesus from Galilee and provided for him, who anointed him for death and who accompanied him on the way of the cross and watched from a distance as he suffered his terrible agony and death. It’s about John, the beloved disciple, and Mary the mother of Jesus giving comfort to one another. It’s about Mary Magdalene, watching and waiting.
The passion story then is very much about the accompaniment in suffering, of just being there and doing small, ordinary and important practical things.
Therefore, it is really about being alongside people in compassion and care; watching through long nights with them, preparing food for those too weary or ill or despairing to do it themselves, looking after the children for a while or just offering a hug or shoulder to lean on.
Ultimately, this ministry of presence and compassion is not the particular preserve of Christians, or of any one nationality or culture, but it is at the heart of each and every one of our responses to our risen Lord.
Let us try to respond this way, today.