This time last week I was in Berlin.
I was privileged to be part of a group of clergy from the Diocese of Coventry visiting communities of the Cross of Nails in that great city. For four days we heard extraordinary stories of people working so hard to bring reconciliation to that great city. Stories of past, present and future peace-making.
Among the churches we visited was the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which stands at the heart of the city and has so many echoes of Coventry. It was, like our Cathedral, ‘the Bishop’s Church’. It was, like our Cathedral, devastated by bombing in the Second World War. The ruins, like our Cathedral, stand preserved as a testament to the horrors of war. And most importantly, like our Cathedral, a magnificent new church has been built, as a symbol of resurrection and healing.
Go inside this new church, seemingly constructed entirely of gorgeous blue glass, and the echoes continue. Ahead of you is a beautiful golden statue of Jesus, suspended above the communion table. Once again, like in Coventry, Christ as King is the focal point.
But this image of Jesus as King is very different to the tapestry in Coventry.
The first thing that struck me was his long face, how sad he looked. This was a church built for people who were broken, sorrowful and ashamed. Christ does not look down in judgement, disdain or anger. He is sorrowful too. Christ shares in our sorrows and walks with us through the darkest times in our lives.
But as I moved closer to him, to receive communion, I noticed that as my perspective changed, his face shortened, and his countenance became less sorrowful. Maybe it was my imagination, but as I received the bread and wine, he seemed to me to have a look of deep peace.
Next I noticed his hands and feet, which clearly bear the marks of the crucifixion. I was reminded that resurrection doesn’t take away what happened it the past. Christ was still crucified and still bears the scars of that horror. The wounds, tragedies and mistakes in our lives can be redeemed through the resurrection, but they won’t be wiped out. That’s why both Coventry and Berlin chose to leave their ruined churches in place. Reminder of the past, of the scars in war, but now in places of new life and resurrection.
And then I noticed Jesus’ arms. At first glance I thought they were stretched out as on the cross. But then I looked again, and realised I was wrong. His arms are stretched out in an act of blessing. Even in their sorrow, even as the people this church was first built for grappled to come to terms with the horrors of what their country had done, Christ the King blessed them. His love and grace are never limited, never withheld. Whatever we have done, when we turn to Christ for forgiveness, his blessing is there for us.
Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.
Rev Charlotte Gale, November 2018