Clergy Notes — Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 10, 2024

The metal sculpture chosen for this week’s Reflection stands beside the remains of a 5th century church on the top of Mount Nebo, on the Jordanian side of the River Jordan. Brazen Serpent is inspired by the Numbers and John passages set for this Sunday.

You may recall that Moses climbed Mount Nebo, where he was able to look across to the Promised Land stretched out before him, but he died there before the Israelites crossed the river. The sculptor, Giovanni Fantoni, sets up this brazen crucifix with the body of Christ outlined by a serpent in such a way that the viewer looks across to the Promised Land through the crucified Christ. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up…

I was privileged to visit Mount Nebo in 2002, where I too was able to look through this crucifix across the Jordan. Our group then crossed the river and passed by Jericho on the way up to Jerusalem. It was the time of the second intifada, which meant that then, as so grievously now, it was too dangerous to travel very far outside Jerusalem. We were not able to visit Bethlehem or Galilee. This was a stark reminder that while we know that in Christ, in his death and resurrection, the victory is won, the redemption of all creation is secured, nonetheless we live in in-between times. We do not yet see Christ’s kingdom in all its fulness here and now. There, but not quite yet!

I had hoped to visit the Holy Land later this year, but the unimaginably horrific war in Palestine and Israel prevents that now: a trivial inconvenience for me, of course, but totally devastating for too, too many people, Israeli and Palestinian. Looking at this crucifix again, and recalling its location, gives me hope even in these darkest times. Christ crucified takes to himself – 2000 years ago and now – the suffering and anguish of the world, redeeming and transforming it in the life of the resurrection.

As we look to him, he invites us to journey with him across the Jordan into the Promised Land.

With every blessing,
Fr Kevin