Touch Wood – meeting the cross in the world today

About this book

The first Christians found the crucifixion such an appalling event they could hardly bear to talk about it or picture it. Today it is a common place image that has lost its capacity both to shock and reveal. Touch Wood explores the joy and anguish of living in this world and how the cross reveals a God who approaches us through all our experiences of living and dying and everything in between. It explores the disturbing story of Christ’s death and asks what it has to say about the gift of human life which, like the the cross itself, is bloody, rough and certainly unfinished.

‘The forsaken night’ – an extract from chapter 9 

Without ever answering the question ‘why’ the cross of Christ reveals a God who is passionately and painfully involved in this world. He bares the dirt, the sweat, the loneliness, the weakness and even death itself. We face nothing worse than he was prepared top face himself. Not that that knowledge completely satisfies us. Who hasn’t felt torn between a longing that God would simply ‘make it better’ and the reality that God could only do do by undoing all that he has created us to be – with the terrible freedoms and choices that make us human beings.

Sheila Cassidy, from her personal experience of torture in a Chilean jail and her work among the terminally ill, has lived long with those questions.

“I have long since given up asking the ‘why ‘ of suffering. It gets me nowhere, and I know when I am beat . I live quite peaceably in the eye of the theological storm, moving about in the accustomed darkness like a mole in its burrow …. But this I do know: more important than asking why, should get in there, be alongside those who suffer. We must plunge up to our necks in the icy water, the mud and the slurry …. for ‘greater love has on one, than they who lay down their lies for their friends’”.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer believed the same. Imprisoned and finally executed  by the Nazis in the Second World War, he struggled to understand God’s ways in the midst of political corruption, violence and religious collusion. He to believed the question ‘why’ was unproductive. Instead of asking “why is God allowing this to happen’ we should ask ‘where is God at work in what is happening?”. The first question leads nowhere. Through the second question we may enter what it happening and find new ways of understanding and responding to it. 

But in the raw pain of human suffering even this discussion seems remote.

There is so much darkness and pain in this world that must be simply ‘lived with’ At such times, if we are able, we must wait with the chaos, in the eye of the storm, under the dark sky beside the cross and the crucified love which no darkness could overcome. We hold to the conviction that all this was made for something better. In the night we cling, with all the strength in our being, to the conviction that we are “a unique and beautiful creation of which these things are no part”*

*from a poem by Brian Keenan on his experience of being held hostage for five years in the Lebanon.