When I was thinking about this talk my mind went to the familiar hymns we sing at Easter time. One of the most popular is ‘There is a green hill far away’ This was written by Mrs Cecil Alexander and first published in 1848.
It draws its inspiration from the Apostles Creed especially the line that goes, ‘Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried.’ It is generally believed to have been written at the bedside of a sick young person. Mrs Alexander gives substance and answer to those who ask why Jesus died. She talks about God’s forgiveness, and speaks of how man can reclaim his original close relationship with God, suggesting that the only possible way to achieve this is by the total giving of oneself to Him. The crucifixion was therefore for each and every one of us.
She was a prolific hymn writer and poet, having written over 200 hymns many of which are still enjoyed today such as ‘All things bright and beautiful’ and ‘Once in Royal David’s City’.
‘There is a green hill far away’ was written as a simple telling of the story of the Passion of Christ and a simple explanation of the theology of those Good Friday events. Though I’m not sure the little children for whom her hymns were written would fully understand what the hymn was all about, particularly when they reached the third and fourth verses which deal with the doctrine on the atonement. They might have wondered what was meant when it said Jesus “died to make us good” and that he was the only one “good enough to pay the price of sin”, but then we might wonder as well. How many of us could fully explain what the hymn was all about? Despite this the hymn is still extremely popular today.
It is believed that the green hill refers to one Mrs Alexander would pass on her way to Derry and the line ‘without a city wall’ is thought to mean beyond or outside the city in order to show the distance to Calvary.
This then started me off on a train of thought about walls, the Bible mentions walls 63 times in 19 books, these include Jericho, Babylon; and Nehemiah being sent by God to build the walls around Jerusalem. I am sure you can think of many more and of famous walls in world history, Hadrian’s wall 122AD, The Long walls of Athens, walls of Constantinople, The Great Wall of China started in 481BC. More modern are the walls around the Kremlin of 1365, the Berlin wall built in the 1950’s until it was pulled down, after 28 years of dividing West from East Berlin. The West Bank barrier some 712km long built in 2002 to supposedly protect Israeli citizens from Palestinian violence, and most recently the Mexican border wall which now lines 650 miles of a 1,900 mile border which Donald Trump wanted building to stop Mexicans coming into America.
So these are all physical structures built for a reason and there are of course many, many, more, walls around our property, across
farmer’s fields, around prisons. All built for one of two reasons to keep people or animals in or out.
But there are also other types of walls or barriers, the ones we surround ourselves with.
We put barriers or walls up to protect ourselves, perhaps from a person or a group of people who have different opinions than our own. Often it can be just a look or harsh word from someone that makes us feel threatened and we put the shutters down.
During this past year we have all had to spend more time in our homes and for those who live on their own this has been particularly hard. When speaking to the isolated on the telephone I have often been told that they feel as though the walls of their homes are closing in around them.
I would like to share a poem that I found which speaks of such walls.
I build walls:
Walls that protect, Walls that shield,
Walls that say I shall not yield or reveal, who I am or how I feel.
I build walls:
Walls that hide, Walls that cover what’s inside,
Walls that stare or smile or look away,
Walls that even block my eyes from the tears I might have cried.
I build walls:
Walls that never let me truly touch those I love so very much.
Walls meant to be fortresses
Are prisons after all Walls that need to fall!
In this poem, walls are not made of bricks or any physical materials. The author uses “walls” as a metaphor for someone hiding his or her feelings and thoughts from others and even from themself.
Maybe we should ask
Why would someone build “walls” around his or her feelings?
Do you, or others you know, ever build such “walls”?
Does the narrator of the poem believe that it’s always a good idea to have these “walls”? How do you know?
Do you think that there are times when we need to “build walls”?
Is there a way we can help those who feel trapped?
These are questions we may want to reflect on during Lent.
If we are feeling trapped in any way maybe the following verses might give some encouragement.
Hebrews 13:6 “So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’”
Psalm :121 7 The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch your – life. 8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Short time of Meditation – put on some relaxing music and let both your mind and your spirit be still before God.
Be still now and rest in Him for a couple of minutes before reading on. You may prefer to simply concentrate and repeat the words ‘Be still and rest in Him’.
Be still and rest in Him.
Be still, sure in the knowledge that Jesus, our healing Lord, is with you through the power of The Holy Spirit.
Be still now rest in Him.
Know that He is offers healing to each one of us, always willing to cleanse us and to make us whole again, if only we turn in faith to Him.
And so sure in this assurance turn your heart towards Him.
Be still now rest in Him.
Allow Him to take away the weight of all that has troubled you over the past day, over the past week.
Let Him lift from you any anxiety or concern that still troubles your heart.
Just Rest in Him.
With faith, let His power lift from you now any feelings of disquiet or distress, frustration or irritability.
Be still and unreservedly rest in Him.
Feel the warmth of His love as He wraps His healing arms around you and allow yourself to rest in Him.
Rest in Him.
Simply rest in Him.
Repeat this meditation regularly throughout the week to come and know that you are never alone. We know this because Jesus promised:
‘Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest’. Amen
Let us pray
Father we all have times when we feel vulnerable and frightened, help us to turn to you when we feel alone and put our trust in you. In the Garden of Gethsemane there were moments when you also felt alone and anxious but you prayed to God your Father who gave you peace and the courage to carry on. We place into your hands anything that is causing us concern today. Amen