I’m reminded of an Afro-American spiritual on this Good Friday morning: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Were You There?
I’m reminded, too, of a sermon written by the Reverend Dr. Peter Marshall in the late 1940’s by the same title: “Were You There?” I have a recording of this particular sermon given by Peter Marshall in his Scottish brogue accent and have often listened to it on Good Fridays in the past. Perhaps I’ll listen to it again today. Were You There? Marshall concludes his sermon this way: “More than nineteen hundred years have passed…The Cross itself has long since crumbled into dust. Yet it stands again when we choose our own Calvary and crucify Him all over again, with every sin of commission and omission. Every wrong attitude…every bad disposition…every unkind word…every impure imagination…every ignoble desire…every unworthy ambition… Yes, Calvary still stands, and the crowd at the top of the hill. Were you there when they crucified my Lord? I was…Were you?”
Were you there “when they crucified my Lord” on 9/11? Were you there when “they crucified my Lord” at Columbine, Newtown, Las Vegas, Orlando’s Pulse Gay nightclub, and Parkland? Were you there “when they crucified my Lord” at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, and Belzec? Were you there in 1968 “when they crucified my Lord” in the My Lai massacre? Were you there in 1863 “when they crucified my Lord” in the Scorched Earth Campaign conducted by Kit Carson against the Navajo? Were you there in 1890 “when they crucified my Lord” at Wounded Knee? Were You There?
Were you there “when they crucified my Lord” in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963? It was described by Martin Luther King, Jr as “one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.” The explosion killed four girls and injured 22 others. Were you there? “Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” I was…Were you? “Were you there when the sun refused to shine?”
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” (Matthew 25:40, English Standard Version)